05 November 2014

Mind-Numbing Sameness #nlpoli

The Conservatives were looking to the by-election in Conception bay South to break their losing streak.

As it seems now as voters in the district head to the polls on Wednesday,  Premier Paul Davis is already conceding that CBS is heading Liberal.  He spoke to reporters [CBC Here and Now, 40 mins in] after announcing a $20 million venture capital fund and tax credit scheme.  Davis said that “one of the disadvantages [in politics is that] it takes a long time for people to have an opportunity to identify with the new government,”  what they have done, their work ethic and all that.

Some of you are undoubtedly wrinkling your nose up at that one.  Well you should.  It’s a ridiculous claim given that Davis has just come through a leadership contest and he’s been in office a while. People know all about him and his team and what they are on about. 

What Davis is doing here seems to be a bit of pre-emptive excuse-making.  Davis and the Conservatives called the Conception Bay South by-election first in the hopes they could win it.  The recent MQO poll for NTV suggests that the Conservatives are trailing the Liberals badly. The party choice results in that poll were Liberals at 37,  Conservatives at 16, with the NDP at six.

Davis himself is running behind Liberal leader Dwight Ball.  The two are close together, but frankly, the experience of publicly available polls over the past few years suggests that the only number we should really be watching is the party choice one.  The “satisfaction” and the leader choice numbers seem to move on their own and neither has an impact on party choice.

What Davis also admitted to reporters – likely without intending to – is that his approach so far has been a dismal failure.  Well, a dismal failure if he actually intended to change public attitudes toward the Conservatives.  Regular readers will be all too familiar with the suggestions your humble e-scribbler has made that would help Davis and his political friends improve their standing.  All of it was about making a change or at least the appearance of a change.

Well,  Davis has steadfastly resisted doing anything that anyone could possibly mistake for change. Take the opening of the House of Assembly as a good example.  Here we have a new Premier looking to turn around his party’s sagging political standing. What a perfect time, then, to mark a change of direction for his party. Bring in a new throne speech and a revised budget to support it.  Davis might have even considered postponing  the sitting of the House until the spring, when he could work up a huge event to mark the start of the Davis era.

Instead, Davis told reporters on Tuesday that he’d be getting the House back in session before the end of November.  And rather than actually make any change, he’ll be just carrying on with the government plan laid down in the spring.

Big whooppee ding.

The man the Conservatives elected because he offered the least threat of change is delivering on his promise of mind-numbing sameness despite the unmistakeable evidence that the public are totally effed off with more of the same.

Davis is a man of consistency, right down to the excuses for failure.  Since 2010,  the Conservatives have blamed their collapse in the polls on some failure of what they call communications.  Kathy Dunderdale went through more communications people than any other Premier in the history of the province going right back to 1855.  Still, the Conservatives dropped in the polls.

They embarked on some kind of communications overhaul that cost a chunk of money but did little other than alter the format of government news releases.

Down went the polls.

“Communications problem” is such a common refrain it is now the cliche excuse for Conservatives.  In fact, it’s such a common excuse that even Judy Manning trotted it out at one point with David Cochrane last weekend during her interview for On Point.  She needed better media training, supposedly.  That’s almost as funny as her claim that we’ve all been picking on her because she’s a girl.

And equally untrue.  manning had lots of people to help her, all of whom have been handling communications for the Conservatives for long enough to know how to handle problems like Manning. Either they gave her bad advice or she refused to listen to their good advice.

As much as the Conservatives use “communications problems” as their favourite excuse, there’s a funny thing, though.  They haven’t really done anything to change. They’ve even kept most of the people around who have been making all the great communications decisions that have supposedly been wrong.  In his most recent move,  Davis even moved the most senior communications person  - from the batch hired in 2003 – into his office to handle communications. 

Talk about keeping things the same.

Well, here’s the thing:  the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and yet expecting a different result each time.  The Conservatives have a by-election, a new leader, and everything they’ve done is like the stuff they’ve done before.  In other words, by Wednesday evening, we’ll know whether the Conservatives are nuts.

God knows, they keep doing the same thing over and over and over and yet expect that, for some unfathomable reason, things will turn out differently this time.