Who's that rustling in the bushes? Is it a disgruntled Fine Gael backbencher, a species which was believed to have become extinct in the last five years? Surely not now, not with the finishing line in sight? Surely they aren't going to rain on Enda Kenny's parade? Or, as some might have it, pull one thread and observe the whole edifice of delicate leadership come tumbling down.

Kenny has done a fine job of keeping the herd penned in, but there was always going to be a point when his authority would be questioned.

There have been mutterings over the past fortnight. First there was his announcement that he intended closing down the Senate and chopping 20 TDs from the Dáil. Sprung from the blue, it was not well received further down the ranks.

Then, last week, more TDs came forward to denounce government proposals to lower the drink-driving limit from 80mg to 50mg. Until Noel Dempsey introduced his watered-down legislation on Friday, Tom Hayes and John Deasy were making the running on the issue. While the Blueshirts had been under no obligation to support the government, making common cause with the likes of Mattie McGrath wouldn't have looked good, particularly as the majority of people back a change in the law.

Most likely, Kenny will sort out the issue behind closed doors, as he has on other occasions since he took over. Two things stand out about his stewardship. He has consistently been underestimated and he has managed to unify the party for the first time in 20 years.

Right now, he has the cut of a man who will be Taoiseach. And yet, there remains one outstanding question about his ability to lead – has he a proper grasp of the main issues of the day? So far, he has been able to hide any shortcomings in this area, but it is a moot point as to whether the electorate is convinced.

When Kenny was appointed leader in the wake of the 2002 general election, Fine Gael was looking for a Bertie Ahern. The success of the Ahern brand – unifying the ranks and connecting with voters as a nice man – had garnered Fianna Fáil a thumping victory in the general election. Touchy feely, "how's it goin' lads, doin' a bit?" brand was where it was at and Kenny fit the bill.

Everybody says he is an innately nice man. Meet him and you'll find it hard to disagree. Nice to voters. Nice to party members. Nice all round. Just what a party at war required.

The past, he might have said, was himself. It wasn't a past to write home about. He had been in the Dáil since 1975, and had contributed little to national politics. A stint as minister for trade and tourism had been the pinnacle of his career, but he never bothered with any of that vision stuff, or engaged to any degree in debate over how to manage the economy.

Then, he found himself as the new leader. On a previous occasion, he had said he would electrify the party. We all laughed at that one. Now he had the chance. The Blueshirts were on the floor. And off he went, touring the country with his electricity.

He was a revelation on that tour. One of the stops was the Green Isle Hotel in west Dublin on 18 June 2002. Over 400 Blueshirts, good and true, crowded in, looking for the light, the way forward.

They lapped him up. Sure, there was a sense of desperation at the time; the party appeared to be heading for the knacker's yard. But there was no mistaking the buzz.

"We took a hit in the general election, but there is a soul out there ready to fight back," he told the troops to rousing cheers.

In parts, it was difficult to take him seriously. "For the 25,000 members and for the 25,000 that are going to join, we want a sense of excitement for them."

It's difficult to know how many believed him at the time, but quite obviously he had belief in himself. As it turns out, Fine Gael has added 10,000 members to its register, a considerable achievement by any standard.

The local and European elections of 2004 were a resounding success for Kenny, winning two European parliament seats and 14 local government seats, largely at the expense of Fianna Fáil.

The 2007 general election was another leap forward. He campaigned like a demon, displaying the energy and drive that he brings to his occasional forays up mountains, at home and abroad.

He attempted to out-Bertie Bertie on the campaign trail. Every canvass was undertaken at high speed, allowing him to meet as many voters as possible, and ensuring that he wasn't collared by any of them.

He kept all casual engagements to a minimun. He and his advisers were learning fast. Style, not substance, was the method on the hustings. The voters were more concerned with the personal touch than with issues.

Until it came to the leaders' debate. On that fateful evening, Ahern showed that he was more than just a pretty face with an engaging smile. He had a grasp of the issues, and, it would seem, issues are Kenny's Achilles heel. That may be a ludicrous statement to make about a man who would be Taoiseach, but we are living in a ludicrous time. Kenny did not then, nor does he now, give the impression that he has a clear grasp of the economic issues that dominate politics at the moment.

Despite being trounced in the leaders' debate, he managed to increase the Fine Gael vote and round up an extra 20 seats. It was a serious achievement, particularly in light of his issues issue.

Lessons were learned. Since then, the Fine Gael spinners have kept their man away from complicated issues. Richard Bruton deals with the sums, Kenny leads with big picture stuff, combining flourishes in the Dáil with his ability to connect in a manner that no Fine Gael leader since Garret FitzGerald was able to do.

There have been a few exceptions to the strategy. After all, it's not possible to insulate a party leader from all serious issues. Nama is a serious issue. Last August, at the Humbert Summer School, Kenny announced that Fine Gael wouldn't be supporting Nama. Instead, the party was proposing a national recovery bank.

On RTé Radio's News at One, Kenny was interviewed by Seán O'Rourke, and found the going tough. Kenny was none too clear on what the bank involved or what the cost would be. The issues thing had raised its head again. Since then, Bruton has been the Fine Gael oracle on all things Nama.

The big picture stuff has come easier. As the master politician, Ahern used to look into his pocket and know what the Irish people were thinking. So too Kenny, who can locate his anger and marry it with that of the public.

Hence his proposal to dump the Senate and sack 20 TDs. He feels the public's anger at the body politic, and now he wants to feed off it.

There is no chance that the Senate will go out of existence in the next seven or eight years, so what the hell. As a pitch, it worked.

Last June, once again, he defied all who underestimate him. Sure, this is the worst time imaginable to be in government, but the voters had plenty of choice and still many of them stuck with the Blueshirts. Fine Gael became the largest party in the state for the first time in its history. Issues, what issues?

Now, it seems that all he has to do is keep the head down and he will be Taoiseach. Fine Gael are 10 points ahead of Fianna Fáil in the polls.

As of now, there is little prospect of any meaningful recovery in the next two years. If the economy begins chugging in the right direction, some kudos will be bagged by the government, but hardly enough to keep them in power, and the Labour party has ruled them out as a partner.

All the odds are now stacked in favour of Fine Gael leading the next government. Enda Kenny is set to be Taoiseach, issues or no issues. A few disgruntled backbenchers are not going to stop him. Only events can trip him up now.