On the campaign trail: George Lee won 53.4% of the vote in Dublin South

Leo Varadkar's role as the Labour Party's favourite whipping boy continued this weekend when he was accused by Cork East's Sean Sherlock of having "more positions than the Kama Sutra" on how to deal with the budget deficit.

Sherlock's comment is the latest chapter in a row between the two main opposition parties over their respective approaches to dealing with the budget crisis.

Tensions heightened last week when Dublin West TD Varadkar claimed during an interview on Newstalk's Breakfast Show that Labour's Eamon Gilmore and Joan Burton "are not being honest" about what they would do to reduce the Irish deficit.

"I heard [Labour TD] Ciaran Lynch saying he wasn't sure if Labour could stand over the Croke Park deal. I've heard [former Labour leader] Ruairí Quinn say he's in favour of water charges, where as when we listen to the 'Eamon and Joan show' it's totally different. The Eamon and Joan show is all: no tax increases, no cuts, 'we'll just magic it away'.

"I think that what will happen is that after the election, the real Labour Party is going to have to stand up and let's hope it's the Labour party of Ruairí Quinn and Pat Rabbitte and not the Eamon and Joan show, which just isn't honest. There are two Labour parties."

Joan Burton hit back by effectively questioning whether Varadkar had done a proper day's work in his life and now Sherlock has come out fighting, rubbishing the Fine Gael TD's claim that the Labour Party is split over its approach to correcting the budget deficit.

He said Varadkar "has given different figures on the frontloading of the December budget and his position on the economy constantly changes.

"We won't be taking any lectures from him about the economy. Leo should not be telling us what should be done or what our position should be. We are a united party and we are united behind the leader. Leo has had more positions on the economy than the Kama Sutra."

Refuting the 'Eamon and Joan show' jibe, Sherlock added: "Of all the party leaders' speeches during last week's Dáil debate on the economy, Eamon's was definitely the most specific.

"You know by the number of deputies sitting behind him and the way his speech was received by the Labour TDs that we are all behind him.

"It is also important to point out that we are united but we have 20 different voices and we are not homogenous. The Labour Party allows the TDs to have their own opinions on what should be done to repair the economy."

THE election campaign that won a Dáil seat for RTé reporter George Lee cost Fine Gael close to €35,000, more than the amount spent by all the other candidates combined. Lee resigned his seat nine months later.

Figures from the Standards in Public Office Commission show that Fine Gael forked out €34,908 on the Lee campaign for the June 2009 Dublin South by-election. By comparison, the campaign for Senator Alex White – the Labour candidate – cost €17,252.

Spending on the Fianna Fáil candidate Shay Brennan was even lower, at just €4,063, and another €3,029 was paid out by the Green Party for its Dáil hopeful Elizabeth Davidson.

Sums of less than €2,000 were spent on the candidates Frank O'Gorman, Ross O'Mullane and Shaun Tracey, who also ran unsuccessfully. The controversial developer and landowner Noel O'Gara declared costs of zero for his campaign, according to election returns.

More than €9,000 was spent by Lee's campaign team on advertising, according to a breakdown of the election costs.

A total of €2,259 was paid to Vision Sign and Window Films, and more than €6,000 was forked out for billboards and bus-shelter advertisements.

Photography services booked through the well-known firm Maxwells cost €2,773. Election posters cost €8,919, and €3,007 was forked out to have publicity mailing material delivered to homes in the constituency.

For the duration of the campaign, the team had use of a rented office – costing €2,000 – and fitted it out with an office network and stationery costing another €1,805.

The campaign, organised by sitting Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes, proved very successful and the RTé economics correspondent secured 53.4% of the vote in Dublin South.

He was elected on the first count, but after just nine months in politics, he announced his resignation from both the Dáil and Fine Gael. Lee, who complained that he had had "virtually no influence or input" in Fine Gael, returned to RTé where he now presents a business programme on radio.

Lee's falling-out with politics will yield a high price for the taxpayer – the by-election will cost in the region of €300,000 to re-run.