Kremlinology has always been a series about trying to interpret signs to see if they can point out what is going on behind the scenes in politics.
In the case of recent monumental changes on the provincial political scene, though, it seems that the signs are unmistakeable even to someone with no political sense at all.
To get your head in the right space, recall that when the Tories lost a by-election in late 2009 – one, single political sideshow – the shockwaves rippled through the province like someone had whacked the jello. The surest sign of the anxiety within the party?
Tony Ducey, DBA Tony the Tory, wrote letters to every newspaper in the province saying that the Tory party was not dead. Who said it was even sick at the time? Well aside from your humble e-scribbler. All jokes aside, there really isn’t a person on the planet who would have suggested, even in jest, that a single belch of indigestion is a sign of a fatal heart attack.
The first clue to the big problems in the Kingdom of Dannystan was Tony’s denial of problems triggered by what was essentially a non-event. One by-election loss does not usually trigger the Gotterdammerung but apparently Tony was petrified that it did.
As everyone knows, much has changed in the meantime and many such tiny traces of evidence pointed to problems. Some of these clues were unmistakeable. The most obvious one of all happened last fall when, in the space of a week, Danny Williams went from being the guy who was poised to sweep to a third term as premier to being the guy standing third in line behind you at Canadian Tire.
Turns out that some Tories don’t believe in such obvious signs of resignation as…well…someone saying good-bye. The rumour running through Newfoundland and Labrador last week was that Danny had actually not quit and run at all.
Nosirreee, Danny had some undisclosed personal business to deal with. His resignation, His Christ-like admonition that we should all love each other and Kathy Dunderdale as Hisself loved Hisself’s children was merely a way of saying “Hang on, my duckie, this is really a big joke. I’ll be back once I’ve tidied up a little mess.” Once that was done, safely from the eyes of the evil news media, he’d come back. Like maybe around May and then he’d be ready to kick ass and take names again.
That story is everywhere.
Your humble e-scribbler heard it around town on Friday and got it in e-mails from several spots in the province and outside it. As comforting as that thought may be to some, and as much as some might like to imagine that Elvis isn’t stone-cold in the ground these decades or that the Gloved One will return, let us be abundantly clear:
Hisself is gone.
That sighting last week in the Confed Building likely has some sensible explanation but rest assured, this is not some script for 22 Minutes again. Danny is the ex-premier and not likely to be back.
Speaking of rumours – and Lord knows they have been all that most people passed around this Christmas - the only rumour not flying around the past couple of months has been that Hisself is about to get a semi-permanent guest spot on Doyle with the possibility of a spin-off next season. in that scenario, Danny would play a former politician slash lawyer slash saviour of the universe who rights wrongs from his office in a converted movie theatre where the roof collapsed. He’d have a couple of sidekicks from his political days and another couple from his legal days. Think of it as a cross between The Mentalist (the saviour and sidekicks angle), Slapshot (comedy and the jock angle) and Hell’s Kitchen (the histrionics).
The rumour that he wants to go federal is not as much of a joke as it first appears. You can find evidence of it in a year-end telegram interview in which he insists that his attacks on “Quebec” are aimed solely at Hydro-Quebec, not the lovely people of that province. And, as Danny claimed in the interview, he always has to qualify his comments so people don’t misunderstand.
As far as federal politics is concerned his anti-Quebec tirades make him radioactive but that doesn’t mean he didn’t harbour a few delusions about replacing Steve.
In any event, Danny is gone.
He is not coming back.
The intense and wildly-varied rumour market is a sign of nothing more than the gigantic shitbake that is gripping the province’s Conservatives. And this latest one is the most bizarre of all.
Think about it for a second.
If their story is true, Danny would be pulling a turn-around even greater than that pulled by Joe Smallwood in 1969. The old bugger retired and then, in the middle of the leadership campaign to replace him, announced that only he was worthy enough to succeed himself.
He launched a comeback and defeated all comers, including John Crosbie.
What’s more Danny would be going against his own mother’s wishes for him. She did tell reporters, after al,l that she would shoot him if he tried to run again for anything other than the bus.
And Danny’s mom, it should be noted, used to drag her crowd door-to-door to get rid of Smallwood and the Satanical spawn he led. How friggin’ cruel would the universe be to have Danny come back into politics against her wishes and do it in a way that shows more raw ego than Joe Smallwood.
What a savage twist would it be to have that sainted woman discover in her declining years that her favourite son is merely the meat-suit for her worst political enemy’s political soul? If you see a ‘67 four-door Impala on Duckworth, you know you have tuned into a new episode of Supernatural. Sam and Dean will be looking for the season-ender to top last year’s season-ender: the Apocalypse.
Danny coming back a la Joe Smallwood would bring on something like the Apocalypse. It would certainly make his mom’s head spin around a few times.
Might be good TV though. Gordon Pinsent could guest star as the ghost of Peter Cashin with Mark Critch as the young, pre-possession Danny. Kevin Noble could play an actor torn between his love of Joe and his love of Dan. There’d have to be a news release on Monday from Terry French announcing provincial government funding to support production of the series which will relocate from Vancouver to St. John’s. Plan is to build on local experience of a TV series shot in St. John’s and starring an old car.
Once you get past the shark jumping tale, though, there is another bit of speccy running around in some Tory circles as well that is worth having a laugh at. That has to do with the reason for backroom deal currently playing out before our eyes.
Apparently, Tories are sticking with Dunderdale because she is the status quo and that’s what everyone wants. Everyone loves Danny. Everyone loves things the way they are – the polls show that - so the way to ensure victory in the fall is to keep things just the way people love them. Think of this as a variation on the Danny: Resurrection storyline since it derives from the theory that Danny is the key to any future Tory victory. It just confuses Danny with the party.
At least it has the advantage of being consistent with past Tory rationalisations. Here’s the second paragraph of Tony the Tory’s letter from 2009:
Still, before anyone says that this is the beginning of the end for the PC party in the province and that the tide is turning towards the Liberals, it is not. It's far from it: the PC party is still in the 70s in the polls and have over 40 of the seats in the House of Assembly.
The only problem with this story would be the facts. Even if we accept CRA polls as being anything close to real, their tracking of Tory party support is not encouraging. The party has been tracking behind its former leader. In the most recent version, the party support continued the downward trend it’s been on since 2007. In fact, over the past six months, the party support numbers went up but then dropped dramatically in just three months.
If the Tories are keeping Kathy Dunderdale it is not because people want more of the Tory same.
They are keeping Kathy because people in the Tory backrooms are scared shitless at the thought of a nomination fight. They are so scared of any nomination contest that they will use any and every excuse to justify the current charade, including claiming that it is nothing more than what the Liberals have done. If that’s the sort of lame-assed stuff they are coming up with, stand by when it turns out that Danny did a few massive give-aways of his on resources, by the by.
But that, dear friends may turn out to be the least bizarre thing to happen in this year of massive political turmoil in the province.
- srbp -