10 September 2008

The politics of strange bedfellows

Bob Ridgley is the Provincial Conservative member of the House of Assembly for St. John's North and part of a family clan that dominates a significant chunk of Conservative vote in the metro St. John's area.

Since his provincial district sits almost entirely within the federal riding of St. John's East where more and more incumbent MHAs (all Provincial Conservatives by the way) seem to be turning out in support of the New Democrat's Jack Harris, it's a fair bet that Bob will be voting Orange in October.

That's hardly surprising given that the Liberal  - Walter Noel - is a former provincial cabinet minister and the Conservative candidate is a guy who has been a perpetual thorn in the side of Premier Danny Williams.  Former journalist Craig Westcott did a game job today of defending Stephen Harper following a speech by the Premier at the Board of Trade,  but it's got to be getting harder and harder for Westcott to keep up a defense of the clearly indefensible.  He said the words but they lacked conviction. It's too bad to see a decent guy like Westcott - the contrarian's contrarian - do this kind of damage to himself.

But that's digression.

CBC News this evening included an interview with some local politicians on the federal campaign.  Energy minister Kathy Dunderdale  - a provincial Conservative - proudly announced she'd be working for the Dipper's Harris.  Not surprising given that she punted Noel to the curb in 2003.

But what of the others, like Ridgley?

While he didn't say so in a Telegram interview on Tuesday, Ridgley made clear a couple of other things. 

First of all, it's pretty obvious he is a Conservative - Provincial and usually federal - right down to being a voter in the merger election that saw Stephen Harper elected. 

Yep.  It is a Family Feud at heart and no one should be naive enough to believe that in a few years time this whole thing won't have snapped back to the usual friendships, relationships and voting patterns.

But here's an even more interesting  turn of phrase in Ridgley's e-mail response to the Telegram reporter:

When Stephen Harper was running to be the leader of the 'new' Conservative Party, I supported Belinda Stronach;  I thought she was as shallow as a saucer but I believed that she was the only one who had a chance of stopping Harper...

Ridgley keeps going, saying next that he was persuaded Harper was alright a little later on.  Ridgley's conversion to the Harper cause survived two federal elections.  Ridgley evidently kept pounding doors or whatever a key local Tory organizer does to get Stephen Harper elected despite the concerns raised about Harper, the evident problems Ridgley had at the time Harper became leader and well, just about anything else that might have given him pause.


Well, not really.

You have a guy here who was prepared to get into political bed with someone he believed wasn't qualified for the job  - lacking in intellect is the polite version of what he said - because he believed that candidate was the only way to stop someone else from winning about whom he claims he had serious misgivings at the time.

How serious?  Well serious enough to vote for someone who to him seemed too shallow to be a national party leader.

What's the word for that sort of logic? 


Well, yeah. 

But there's a better one.


Yeah, shallow.

When that first shallow bit of logic didn't work out, Ridgley changed his mind and got into bed with Stephen Harper.

If that's not enough to make you a little uneasy, there's maybe the whole reference to Stronach as being "shallow as a saucer". 

That's gratuitous. 

It's a cheap shot.

It's a pretty low personal attack, along the lines of calling someone a quisling or a traitor or showing a puffin crapping on the leader of a rival party.

If nothing else, it was totally unnecessary in the context of the e-mail on any level and that too says as much about Ridgley's judgment as the other stuff.

It will be interesting to see how Nancy Riche, among others, reacts to having Ridgley knocking doors on behalf of Jack Harris. Does Bob share Jack's views on choice and equal marriage for example?  There's a set of questions to pose to the Blue Crew who are turning Orange suddenly.

Ridgley's backing the ABC thingy  for a very specific reason and when the reason goes away he and the rest of his "progressive" Conservatives will head back home, just as he was prepared to switch from Belinda to Steve when it suited.

Politics can make for some truly strange bedfellows.