29 October 2012

Darin King and the Tory Charm Offensive #nlpoli

A couple of the exceedingly small changes in the recent cabinet shuffle came out of the Bill 29 fiasco.  Felix Collins went from the relatively low profile job of justice minister to the complete obscurity of intergovernmental affairs.

Everyone saw that.

And over in another corner, there was a switcheroo people didn’t notice quite as much.  Jerome Kennedy gave up the job of directing Government business in the House so that Darin King could take over.

There was no doubt Jerome had completely frigged up in the House, just like there’s no doubt the Tories are way down in the polls.  The two went hand in hand all last session and indeed, for most of the last year or more.

Darin King offers no chance of changing that.

King isn’t known for his charm.  Indeed, as people have seen the past week,  King is an intense frigger. In addition to getting the House leader job, King also moved from the fisheries portfolio to justice. Not that you’d know that, mind you. King has been on the air more talking about the fisheries dispute over the Fortune plant since he left the fisheries job than when he had it.  King’s replacement in fisheries – Derrick Dalley – is almost silent.

This is not some kind of good cop, bad cop thing on the fisheries union.  This is Darin King doing the sort of thing King does all the time:  sticking his face into an issue in an aggressive fashion.  Where a deft, delicate approach would be considerably more productive, Darin King wields a double-bladed axe. 


Where some other politician would see a Stradivarius violin and ponder the sweet music that could come from a light touch, King reaches for the axe and thinks about toothpicks.

In that respect, King is the same as his predecessors as House leader;  Joan Burke and Jerome Kennedy.  And you could see King’s skill as he met with the other House leaders to talk about the upcoming debate on Muskrat Falls.  One meeting in which King laid down the Government’s dictation.  And no more meetings as King claims he has been too busy with other stuff like the fisheries dispute that his colleague the fisheries minister should be handling.

It’s clumsy and it’s crude, but King is playing the only way he and his colleagues know how.  He told CBC that without unanimous “consent on the rules of the debate, there is no special debate on Muskrat Falls. It's as simple as that. The rules that govern the legislature are clear.”

Absolutely true.

But two things are quite apparent to the rest of the world that have apparently eluded King and his friends.

First of all, the Tories can’t dictate the terms of the debate as King and his colleagues are trying to do.  The rules of the House are clear on that.  And while the Tories used to be able to dominate the House, both the Liberals and the New Democrats emerged from the Bill 29 debate confident, organized and unwilling to bend to the likes of King’s bully-boy bullshit any more.  Those days are gone.

Second of all, the opposition doesn’t need the debate.  King and his hapless friends do.  They have so badly bungled the Muskrat Falls issue over the past couple of years that they need something positive  - for once - to try and get Muskrat Falls behind them.  If King and his colleagues wind up with something other than a special debate, they will lose the public battle over the hydro megaproject and frankly, at 33% in the polls, they can’t afford it.

That’s bad for the Tories and it is most certainly bad for someone like King who stands a chance of leading the Tories once Kathy Dunderdale quits within the next year or so.  At the rate he is going, King would wind up leading a party that is severely wounded, with very little credibility and a raft of financial problems they can’t manage.  They won’t be able to manage them because they cannot build consensus or forge alliances. They can’t practice politics as most people would understand what politics is.

The Tories have been talking about change for the past few months.  They talk about doing things differently but, as Darin King has shown, when it comes time to act instead of talk, they just deliver more of the same. 

You just gotta wonder.