30 August 2013

Osborne joins the Liberals #nlpoli

Not surprisingly, long-serving St. John’s South MHA Tom Osborne has joined the Liberals.

Forget all the stuff about what party he fits with.  Forget all the foolishness coming from the New Democrats.  Osborne’s choice reflects a canny political assessment of the political landscape not as it is now, but as he expects it will be over the next couple of years. 

For starters, understand that Osborne won the district while the Liberals were in power and has held it based on his personal strength. Then understand that he comes from one of the most politically astute of political families, with a long record of success.

What Osborne needed more than anything else was a party that would give him the best chance of not only winning his seat again in the next election but of sitting on the government side after the voting was over.  His considerable experience in politics is a valuable asset in itself.  And when it comes to fine art of cabinet making, it’s the sort of experience that gets you into cabinet or into the Speaker’s chair.

After a year of watching, Osborne chose the party of political experience over one that lusts more for piety than power. And politics is nothing, after all, if it not about winning and wielding power. 

The NDP, though, chose something else.  Stop and think about it for a second.  According to reports, Osborne made a pitch to join the NDP. Osborne offered his experience and he offered another seat to strengthen the party in the House.  He made a couple of demands, neither one of which sounds too difficult especially given all that Osborne brought to the table. The NDP turned him down flat.  That will likely prove to be a monumental political blunder.

Osborne now joins the Liberal Party as a welcome addition to their ranks. There won’t be any talk any more about the NDP forming the official opposition.  Instead, the focus has shifted to the Liberals who are in the middle of their leadership race and, if the polls are right, have already replaced the NDP at the top of political heap in the province.  He adds momentum to a party that has already got a head of steam up.

Des Sullivan told CBC that it is almost unheard of for a politician in the province to cross the floor of the House during a leadership race. He’s right.  Sullivan – who served as a senior political aide to Frank Moores and Brian Peckford - expects Osborne to make some further statements about his support during the leadership.  He’s likely right on that, too.

At the same time as all that is going on, Osborne’s decision only serves to highlight once again the political shambles that is the Conservative Party.  In 2011, your humble e-scribbler misread the signs when Osborne withdrew from the race for Speaker after the general election.  He must be going to cabinet, it seemed. Who could have guessed that it was really a sign of the sort of gross political stupidity that has destroyed the provincial Conservatives from the inside?

A year later, the world learned that for some inexplicable reason the entire Conservative caucus were treating Osborne with the greatest contempt.  Leading the pack in attacking Osborne for some slight or other was Kathy Dunderdale.  Two years later, everyone knows the breathtaking sort of political incompetence that leads the Tory party these days.  It wasn’t just Kathy Dunderdale:  don’t forget thuggery of people like Steve Kent, Joan Shea, Paul Lane and the rest of the Tory caucus who took to the media to slag Osborne. They set low standards for politics in every respect.

By the end of 2013, the Liberals will have a new leader.  They’ll be at the top of the polls.  The Tories will be somewhere on their own internal timeline to get rid of Kathy Dunderdale and bring in a new leader.  That’s Ross Reid’s likely mission:  to hold things together during the transition.

And over in the New Democratic camp, they will be well into a political mess of their own.  Their St. John’s municipal candidates will be mostly wiped out, especially their star, Sheilagh O’Leary.  At the provincial level, some local news media will turn to the NDP for comment, but for the most part, the NDP will be working hard to hold on to what they have.  If they keep on the same track, the party can become the official opposition, but likely to a Liberal majority government.

But winning power?  The NDP just made it plain they have no interest in it.