“Fundamentally, the [Conservative Party leadership] process works,” former Conservative cabinet minister Shawn Skinner said on CBC’s On Point last weekend. “It’s been proven in the past. The party would have been better served if there’d been more candidates, but it is what it is.”
It’s a variation on what Skinner said on the same program after he confirmed he wouldn’t run.
In itself, the statement is literally true: the process delivered a leader for the party.
But that’s about all it seemed to do.
Given the public reaction, only the most hard core of Co0nservative insiders is willing to toss the whole thing aside with the rather bland admonishment that “it is what it is.” After all, what the leadership contest became is a huge political liability.
It’s a liability because – let’s go out on a very thick limb here - most people in the province think that Frank Coleman got to be the Premier-in-waiting because someone like Danny Williams or Danny and a small group worked behind the scenes to make it happen.
The idea is so widely accepted that people don’t even question it any more. Frank Coleman, Danny, the party president. You name a leading Tory figure who has done a media interview in the last couple of months and you will name someone who has had to answer a question about the inside fix that got Frank the Premier’s job.
No mountain of denials has made the perception disappear and at this point it’s unlikely that anything will. In fact, the more the question comes up, the more the response seems to create further problems. Take a look at Frank’s interview that appeared in the Advertiser earlier this week. Asked about the perception that he’s Danny’s boy, Coleman said that “the only person I really pay attention to is my wife.”
He doesn’t pay attention to anyone else.
He only pays attention to his wife.
That will likely cause some people to want to know more about his wife’s political beliefs.
But before they get to that point, Coleman’s comment will likely add even more weight to the perception that Coleman just does whatever the hell he wants anyway and doesn’t listen to anyone.
While some of the provincial Conservatives are rolling their eyes up in the head and reciting their talking points like some sort of cultist mantra, understand that this is the reality of politics. Coleman’s already done a raft of absolutely boneheaded things – like the peek-a-boo campaign – that have only damaged his credibility publicly. Skinner can dismiss these gaffs as just the way Frank is but, these sorts of shag-ups are what will turn the Conservative ship from the USS Enterprise to the Titanic by the next election.
Coleman was likely trying to make a little joke but the poor choice of words fits with the problems Coleman’s been having. Either he isn’t getting good advice or he isn’t taking it. Well, there might have been a Freudian slip in there when Frank said he doesn’t pay attention to anyone but his wife.
It is what it is, to borrow that horrible phrase from Skinner.
Unfortunately, what “it” is, won’t be determined by Frank, or Danny or Shawn. It will be whatever each individual voter believes it is.
Right now voters believe that Frank is Danny’s boy and they don’t seem to like it.