05 February 2014

Turn, turn, turn #nlpoli

Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore shifted their desks in the House of Assembly on Tuesday from the independent or unaffiliated part of the chamber to sit with the Liberals.

They left the New Democratic Party last fall voicing concerns as they left about Lorraine Michael’s leadership and the lack of election readiness in the party that had, in 2012, at one point topped the polls in the province.

The news on Tuesday was probably the least surprising news of any that’s happened in provincial politics in the past six months, but that didn’t stop some people from  moaning about it.

One crowd of moaners were hard-core New Democrats.  They are  still smarting over the collapse of their public support for their party.  These are the people who needed someone to blame.  Rather than deal with the real problem – Lorraine Michael and the party brass – these people blamed Kirby and Mitchelmore for bringing the party low.  They accused the pair of lacking principles and of being opportunists.

The best rebuttal to that argument came from Simon Lono, on Facebook.  Since most of you likely wouldn’t have read Lono’s comments, here they are in their entirety:

“Sorry but when people believe that their political party is the only one which contains politicians with integrity, credibility and substance, they are simply wrong. I understand the frustration (I've been there) but it's simply not true.

“I've known too many people in too many parties over too many years to simplistically categorize political people into good or bad, worthy or unworthy, based on their party affiliation.

“No party has a monopoly on integrity, credibility and substance or, on the other hand, foolishness, craven idiocy or grasping self-service. All parties contain people that have more than a little of all those things, just like any other human institution.”

The other crowd of moaners were Conservatives.  They’ve been dealt some harsh moral blows the past few months.  They have been on a steady slide downward in the polls and the government caucus has been singularly unable to stop the drop.

To make matters worse, the party lost one of its star performers late last year.  Jerome Kennedy quit suddenly, leaving the party to call a by-election at an inconvenient time.  Then in January,  Paul Lane bolted from the caucus to join the Liberals, followed two days later by Kathy Dunderdale.  The former Premier returned to the province a couple of days into her planned Florida vacation to announce she’d had enough and was finally doing what she planned to do three years earlier:  retire.

It’s not surprising that Conservatives are feeling a bit down in the dumps.  They grew used to riding high because they did it for so long. They never really had to practice real politics:  they got used to lording it over anyone in earshot and ignoring everyone who dared to question their plans.  So when people started giving them the finger, the Tories couldn’t figure out what to do in reply.

Well, that’s not strictly true.  They did have an answer.  Unfortunately, most of them opted for some variation on the horse’s ass school of political opinionating coming from former cabinet minister Trevor Taylor. 

A few months ago, Trevor was justifying the way Conservatives wasted public money deceiving the public by manipulating a bunch of Internet polls.  Back then,  Trevor believed that public “opinion is most accurately measured by the independent pollster, the one who is outside the subjective opinions that we all have, the one who conducts a phone-out,…”.

On Tuesday, Trev offered the opinion that there’s no one worth talking about in local politics these days.  He cited as proof of this view that the paraphrased opinions of an unnamed person or unnamed people Trevor spoke to somewhere about something. 

To borrow a variation on one of Trev’s more colourful phrases, it isn’t hard to put a copper on that.  In other words, it isn’t hard to figure out why Trevor is calling everyone down to the dirt.  You see, public opinion polls of the sort Trevor advised to believe in show that the public is putting their support behind a bunch of politicians in the Liberal Party.  The shift doesn’t appear to be fleeting, at least as far as Trevor’s political friends are concerned. 

They have been running away from his recent political friends in the Conservative Party for three years now.  While they turned to Trevor’s original political friends that came to an end in October 2013.  Of the people who supported the Conservatives in 2011,  only 40% are still backing the Tories.

“One generation passeth away,” it says in Ecclesiastes, “and another generation commeth: but the earth abideth forever.”

That is the time in which we live.  One political generation,  Trevor’s crowd, is passing away.  Another is coming. People have been moving around for a while but the trend is clear.  They are moving away from the people Trevor used to hang with.  And now they are forming, as it seems,  around Dwight Ball and the Liberals.  

Trevor should recognize the trend.  It last happened around the time he ran for the New Democrats in the 2000 federal election and then a couple of months later ran for the Conservatives provincially.  

The same thing seems to be happening again, as a fellow who was president of the provincial New Democrats in 2011 is now sitting with the Liberals.  As the news media reported, a lot of the people in the room were New Democrats who were shifting with Kirby and Mitchelmore to the Liberals.  They want to do some good and are trying to find a bunch of people to work with.  They know there is a chance to get power and for people who want to do good, power is what you need.  Trevor should be generous enough of spirit to recognise that.   It’s not complicated.

With Kirby and Mitchelmore, the Liberal caucus is now twice the size it was in 2011.  The Liberal caucus is getting larger through defections and by-elections.  It seems to mirror the shift in public opinion over the past three years.  Take all the moaning and bitching from people like Taylor and the New Democrats for what it is:  the grief of people who were on top but who are now on the way down and, in Trevor’s case, out.  We heard the same thing from the Liberals when they were on the down-slide.  Pay heed instead to the shifts, to the dwindling of one and the increase of the other.

There is a time to break down, and a time to build up.  There is a time to plant, and a time to reap.  To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under Heaven.

These are short words and these are old words, in the words of a politician who knew intimately the seasons of political life.  In those short, old words is the truth of politics that we must all respect:

One generation passes away and another generation comes.  But the earth out of which all political power grows - people deciding for themselves how to run their own affairs – the earth abideth forever.