04 June 2014

And then things went horribly wronger… #nlpoli

John Crosbie, the elder statesmen of Conservatives in the province took a shot at Danny Williams for his continued interference in the internal affairs of the provincial Conservatives.

Danny blew a gasket and willingly gave interviews to every media outlet in town, thereby guaranteeing that the story that can only do even more damage to the provincial Conservatives would keep going for a day longer than the Conservatives needed.

Not to be outdone,  Tweet minister Steve Kent called a couple of the local media outlets and claimed that his unique status in the Conservative leadership-race-that-never-was entitled him to refute Crosbie. Thus the story will drag on for yet another news cycle longer than the Conservatives really needed.

Before we go any further, it’s just as well to demolish this idea that Kent has some sort of special status in the Conservative leadership race. He was merely the last fellow who announced publicly that he wasn’t running.  Kent managed to frig around a few local reporters in the last few hours before the deadline but make no mistake about it:  Kent was never in the Conservative leadership race in any way, shape, or form.

By waiting, Kent helped to create the illusion that there was a race.    Kent knew one thing, likely from his talk with Danny Williams:  there was no way he could win with Williams and his associates backing Coleman.  What Kent could do was play along with the back-room deal and play it he did.  Steve had a statement ready to issue in the middle of the night  - how obviously pre-planned was that? – in which Kent declared himself committed to Coleman. 

Kent reaffirmed his commitment on Tuesday, like he needed to do that.  In one of his media calls – to VOCM BackTalk Kent talked about long conversations he’d supposedly had with Coleman about life, public policy,   and Coleman’s vision of the province.  It was that vision, said Kent, that convinced him Frank was The One.

The funny thing is that since the middle of February, when Coleman first decided to enter the race,  Coleman hasn’t let the rest of us in on the vision he whispered in Steve’s shell-like ear.  Speech after speech and there’s been no sign of a hallucination coming from Frank Coleman, let alone the full-on vision that supposedly made Kent go weak in the knees and abandon his own considerable political ambition, even if it is only for the time being.

So on Tuesday Kent confirmed that he went on bended knee to Danny to discuss the leadership.  Williams also proudly rattled off the sorts of people who asked the Old Man for his blessing.  What the pair did, though, was confirm what Crosbie said on the weekend:

“Just what is going on here? Why weren’t there any contenders from the present caucus and the present cabinet? This is a first time in my experience, certainly here in Newfoundland, but I haven’t heard of it anywhere else either…There’s nobody else who’s in any position to be exerting that influence other than Danny.”

That isn’t good.

The Conservatives must surely realise the damage the rigged leadership is causing them.  They have struggled since February to deny that the show was rigged.  Every time the leadership comes up, someone from the party has to answer a question about it.  Every time someone makes a comment,  someone like Williams or Kent must come forward to continue the fight.  The problem is, though, that their denials ring hollow:  they always wind up confirming that there is some element of truth to the accusation.

In between Kent’s call to BackTalk and John  Crosbie,  the VOCM news carried a series of interviews with ordinary people.  Over and over,  people complained about the fact that Frank Coleman will become Premier without facing any sort of election.

And that is why what Kent and Williams are doing is as politically stupid as can be.  People have already decided the rigged leadership is bad.   Everything the Conservatives do to remind people of the rigged leadership just reminds voters of the gap between what the Conservatives are doing and what voters think is right. 

Even the leadership convention itself will reinforce those negative messages. As perverse as that sounds,  it’s the inescapable conclusion of listening to ordinary people of the kind VOCM talked to in those streeters.  The Conservatives would have been better off getting Frank on the job and holding some sort of rally in July, much as they did with Coleman.

Instead, they stuck with delay and further delay, thereby reminding people at every opportunity of things that piss them off. People want Coleman to stand for election and, as it would seem, they want it sooner rather than later.  Yet, Coleman has no interest in facing the electorate, apparently, and so he sticks to his guns out of naiveté or obstinacy. In the process,  Coleman is only harming his own cause.

When Coleman and his supporters are not shooting themselves in the feet with machine guns,  when disaffected and influential Conservatives like John Crosbie and Bill Barry are not lobbing grenades at Williams and his crew, other Conservatives are setting fire to paper bags of dog turd on Coleman’s front step and ringing the front door bell.

Say hello to Joan Shea. 

She announced on Monday that she was leaving politics immediately.  Shea could have waited for a month and left politics with Tom Marshall.  That would have created two vacancies to fill, but at least Coleman could legitimately have stuck to his plan to run – eventually – in the seat Tom Marshall plans to vacate.

Instead, Joan jumped ship 30 days early for no apparent reason.  Not surprisingly, reporters called Coleman’s crew to see if Frank would run in the inevitably by-election.  Not surprisingly, Coleman said no, thereby giving voters in the province another look at his uplifted index finger.  Voters won’t care about his reasons.  They will just see the “frig you” in Frank’s statement and smell the dog shit on his shoes the next time he shows up in public during his peek-a-boo wander to the Premier’s job.

Constantly reminding voters of things about you that annoy them is not a good idea.  For a bunch as politically out of touch as the Conservatives, it’s par for the course, though. 

The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

The Keystone Kops of Konfederation Building.

Frank fits right in.