03 October 2013

Truth and Fiction #nlpoli

If you take Jerome Kennedy at his word on Wednesday, here’s what is going on.

Since he wasn’t planning to run in 2015, he decided that he would leave politics on Thursday, go back to practicing law in November and then start a master’s degree in law in January.

Nothing going on.  No other story.  Nothing pressing.

Just good bye.

Now watch the video of the scrum.

Look at his body language.

And then realise how utterly preposterous Wednesday’s news conference really was.\

You can tell it was complete bollocks in many places but just look at the question from a reporter at around the 5:30 about a row on the trade mission to China last June.

Kathy Dunderdale laughs “we weren’t in China in June”.\

Of course, that’s not true. That’s fiction. According to the official news release, Kathy and her entourage were in China for eight or nine days from June 20 to June 28.  She was in China at the time, even though she denied it. 

Just like it was fiction when Kathy said she was in Texas when Bill 29 went down.  The truth is that she was
in Alberta.

Now what Jerome said in answer to the same question is absolutely true.  Sitting around a cabinet table, people get into rackets all the time.  It’s bound to happen when you have competitive people.
Kennedy also maintained cabinet solidarity when he acknowledged that cabinet debates many things including Muskrat Falls.  But at the end, when cabinet reaches a collective decision, he backed the decision and still does.

What else would anyone have him do but to act with integrity and support the decision he and his colleagues took?  That’s the thing about cabinet government:  you hang together. 

As for the rest of it, Kennedy gave a story that has all the plausibility of leaving for family reasons, a cliché Kennedy avoided but that Kathy Dunderdale could not help but use.  Cliché is her thing.  it was as plausible as the idea that this whole thing was known in the Premier’s Office and planned and agreed upon so that now Kathy can refresh her cabinet.

If this was a planned event,  we’d have seen the cabinet shuffle.  Refreshing the cabinet would be the story.  Kennedy’s departure would be a side story.  Sure there be fulsome praise, but Kennedy would be a secondary matter.  The news stories on Wednesday night coming out of the cabinet shuffle would be all about the change s and about who got promoted.

Anyone familiar with managing these sorts of issues knows how you manage them when  you are prepared and in control.  If the Premier’s Office is in control, then that is the story.  It’s about the Premier and the future.

Those same people know what it looks like when the Premier’s Office is caught with a surprise departure they may have suspected but had no control over at all.  The story we got on Wednesday isn’t about the Premier.  Wednesday was all about Jerome and – in essence -  confirmation of the speculation of the internal rackets in cabinet and the caucus.  The nervous laughter from both Kennedy and Dunderdale and the strenuous insistence of solidarity when the inevitable question came up was yet more confirmation that there was the fiction the pair were telling and the truth was something else again.

As it is, we will now have two weeks of further speculation as we wait for Kathy Dunderdale and her staff to figure out who to put in what job.  No one is due for promotion, according to Kathy, so that means she has a back bench of people doomed to sit there for another year or more.  Her parliamentary secretaries get to keep their jobs and extra pay but they won’t get to cabinet.  Frustrated egos and ambition do not for a happy crew. 

Then there is Felix Collins.  According to the news from the budget last year, his department was due for elimination and – presumably  - so was he from the cabinet.  The longer he stayed, the more obvious was that the early claims he would be leaving cabinet were fiction.   The truth is that Collins will stay despite his manifest incompetence while arguably the brightest minister in the Conservative cabinet since 2003 is going back to law school.

Then there is the issue of the by-election. If the Premier’s Office was in control of this story,  Kennedy would be hanging about until the Conservatives had a fair shot at winning the by-election.  Kennedy resigned immediately. 

Under changes the Tories made to the elections laws in 2004, that means that Kathy Dunderdale now has to call the by-election no later than December 1.  She has to give at least 21 days notice of polling day, which pushes her into the weekend immediately before Christmas. 

Since she has to have it done within 90 days of the departure, she can’t go longer than New Year’s Day.  Are we keen on an election on the spell between Boxing Day and New Year’s?  Not frigging likely.  That means Kathy will have to call the election before the end of November and set the voting day for some time in December.

Hang on a sec. Over there, the Liberals are in full election mode with their leadership contest.  Pull an election in the middle of that racket and you will get the entire party and five leadership wannabes with bags of cash pouring all over your by-election.  Pull it after the leadership is settled and the Tories will face a fully charged party with bags of cash and potentially a leader just drooling for a seat in the House.  Even in the worst case, the party would be running someone like Paul Antle or Cathy Bennett.

By the end of the year, the Liberals will have a new leader and, in all likelihood another new member on top of the ex-Tory they picked up a month or so ago.

When the dust settles,  the fiction from Wednesday’s little chat with the media will give Jerome Kennedy a convenient story to mask the truth:  he screwed Kathy Dunderdale royally. And what will surely be sweeter for Jerome,  Dunderdale  stood there in front of the reporters, praised Jerome to the hilt and smiled, all the while perhaps not even realising he had slit her political throat. She does seem to have a problem telling truth from fiction, after all.