14 February 2011

Kremlinology 32: the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

Since 1949, not a single Premier has left office and then come back later to campaign on behalf of a by-election candidate for his party while his party was still in power.

Not one.

Once they resigned, they were gone.

They handed over the keys to the eight floor washroom and buggered off to the sun or the Wet Coast or whatever they were up to after quitting.

But not the Old Man.

In Humber West, the Conservatives under the curious leadership style of Kathy Dunderdale flew Danny Williams out to campaign for their hand-picked candidate.

Vaughn Granter seems to be having some tough sledding in the by-election in Williams’ old seat.  Granter is usually seen practically running from door to door, bundled up against the cold like some blue-clad moustachioed gnome.  CBC’s Doug Greer caught Granter on one portion of his frenzied campaign and heard yet again about Granter’s extensive experience in dealing with parents and students.  This is not surprising since Granter is a teacher but it does not logically follow that a high school principal is a natural community leader ready to step into the shoes vacated by one Danny Williams, Q.C (Quixotic Conservative).

Hisself’s sudden appearance smells of concern in the Connie bunker about Granter’s chances. Put that with Tom Marshall’s appearance on open line trying to claim the environmental debate his candidate buggered was somehow tainted.  Then add Tom’s unexplained cancellation of a budget consultation on polling day and you have some pretty solid clues that all is not well with Danny’s legacy in Corner Brook.

The fact that Danny tried to claim the seat is still his – he left it vacant on December 3 – seems all the more curious.  What really demolished any lingering doubts about Granter’s current status on the leaderboard was Danny’s use of The Phrase:  “Nothing could be further from the truth” to deny troubles for the provincial Tories in the mill town. More often than not that phrase used to signal that one could not be, in fact, any closer to the truth.

Danny’s sudden appearance in Humber West may do more than signal Vaughn Granter’s in trouble and may lose the by-election.

His appearance suggests Kathy is not up to the job or, much worse, that maybe she is merely the premier for show.  The real leader had to come out of hiding to finish the job for his ersatz replacement.  On the face of it, one can easily think that Dunderdale and her entire team can’t win a by-election in a supposedly safe seat without Danny.  You have to wonder why. 

One must also wonder why Kathy Dunderdale spent so little time campaigning in Corner brook.  Dunderdale did make a brief appearance in the campaign early on and a couple of cabinet ministers showed up.  For the most part, though, Kathy hasn’t been out running around with the candidate she wants in the House with her.  She hasn’t even been heard talking him up all that much.  What gives with that?

In a manner of speaking, Hisself’s sun-tanned appearance is a bit like taking a Tommy gun to Kathy Dunderdale’s leadership.  He’s shot it full of holes. 

If Mark Watton wins on polling day or even comes a decent second, people around the province will start to wonder about her her ability to lead the party and the province.  Sure the faithful and the pitcher plants will cheer and pretend all is well.  But  among the politicians and the politically inclined, the view may be decidedly different. 

There may well be questions about Dunderdale’s ability to do the job.  In a caucus where her leadership does not have deepest of deep support, there could be a move to replace her before she gets to wear the crown officially.  Political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador aren’t known for their internal stability when unfettered ambition smells the stink of weak, ineffectual leadership.

Just think of it this way:  unless Vaughn Granter blows Mark Watton into dust at the polls, Danny’s trip to Corner Brook will be seen as the St. Valentine’s Day massacre of Kathy Dunderdale’s political credibility and maybe her career.

- srbp -