07 November 2010

Some loveable turncoats

‘In Newfoundland politics,”  wrote Bill Rowe, “you haven’t lost your political virginity unless you’ve knifed your own party in the back and crossed the floor of the House of Assembly at least once.”

At the time he wrote that – 1984 – Rowe was a lawyer, columnist, radio show host and the author of the splendidly titled Clapp’s Rock and The Temptation of Victor Gallanti. he was also the former leader of the provincial Liberals, a job he lost in the wake of a political scandal involving leaked police reports.

In 1985, Rowe tried to run for Brian Peckford’s Conservatives.  He lost the nomination fight.

In 1993, he carried the Liberal banner in the provincial general election and got a solid drubbing by the local Conservative candidate.

Fast forward a decade.  Conservative Danny Williams tried to lure Rowe back into politics as a Conservative.  Rowe held out for an appointment to a job as Williams’ personal ambassador to Hy’s.  He took up the job in 2004 and held it for a few months before packing it in to return to St. John’s.

Rowe is now touring the country, incidentally, flogging what is purported to be an insider’s account of things he was outside the room for during that brief sojourn on the Rideau.  According to reports, the mainlanders are lapping it up. The softcover book has hit the Globe and Mail’s hardcover best-seller list.

You could not make this stuff up if you tried.

One of his regular talk show callers these past few years has been a decent fellow named George Murphy.  He has garnered some local notoriety for his ability to forecast retail gasoline prices with some accuracy.  Murphy is a staunch supporter of the government’s gas price-fixing scheme, among other things.

Murphy’s gained some extra notoriety lately by being the latest local politician to carry on the fine tradition of crossing the floor to the other side.  Murphy very loudly and very publicly renounced the Liberal party and headed for the New Democrats. Murphy was cross that the Liberals did not hire him for a job, picking instead Craig Westcott, a journalist of some considerable experience who did a bit of work for the provincial Conservatives and whose only foray as a candidate was for the Harper Conservatives in opposition to Danny Williams’ Family Feud in 2008.

So far only one local journalist -  Telegram editor Brian Jones - has accurately captured the essence of former Liberal Murphy’s current position, that of New Democratic candidate in a by-election likely to be called next week for a seat formerly held by the Conservatives:

…Murphy didn’t like it that a Tory became a Grit, so he bolted. Murphy, a former Liberal, is now an NDPer.

He is seeking support from NDP members to win the party’s candidacy in the upcoming byelection in the district of Conception Bay East-Bell Island.

But by Murphy’s own logic, NDP rank-and-filers should be aghast. A former Liberal is tainting their pure gene pool, as it were.

Perhaps Murphy knows something the rest of us don’t — that changing parties is unacceptable for some people, i.e., Westcott, but entirely acceptable for others, i.e., himself.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I’ve read that Telegram story three times and I’m still left thinking, let me get this straight…

You could not make this stuff up if you tried.

- srbp -