17 October 2005

The I in t-e-a-m.

In both his speech to the provincial Tory convention this weekend and in his guest editorial in The Independent, Danny Williams gave us a succinct and eloquent description of his approach to politics.

His job is to provide leadership, tough but smart leadership in the the words of his Spindy editorial.

Everyone else's job is to stand shoulder to shoulder behind him.

It's a pretty simple leadership style.

There's is no room for debate or discussion, at least not on matters of substance.

That philosophy goes a long way to explaining why he labeled some of his critics in Stephenville as dissidents simply because they didn't readily accept either his explanation or his actions. The Premier didn't mean the term as a compliment or a simple statement of fact; he meant that they were out of position and would be well advised to get back in line behind him.

It also explains why he keeps going back to the offshore discussions. His own failure to achieve even one tenth of what he promised is irrelevant. The episode has been sold as a success and the value of the entire wrangle with Ottawa is, as he notes in the speech, what happens when everyone stands behind him.

More than anything else, the Danny Williams definition of team also explains his problems with a number of people who, in fact just are coincidentally women. The major problem for Elizabeth Marshall, Flo Delaney, Anne Marie Hann and Debbie Fry wasn't that they were strong women. Nope. The problem was they did not agree with him readily.

Ask Fabian Manning about that sort of thing. While a number of political observers expected last weekend's convention to be the place where Fabian would be accepted back into the Tory fold, they saw instead that Manning is still being punished for disagreeing with the Premier on fisheries issues. Ironically though, Fabe got more media coverage on himself - and the fact he has been Tory since before Danny was a twinkle in someone's eye - than the Premier got.

In some respects, Danny Williams is a common type in post-Confederation politics in Newfoundland and Labrador. Smallwood was a local caudillo or strongman. He ruled everything in the province for 23 years. Brian Peckford copied many of Smallwood's approaches to governing, as did Brian Tobin.

The next couple of years will be interesting to see which of those three politicians Williams resembles the most.

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