Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Time to get ahead of myself

Well, the writing may not be on the wall, but God has got his Xtra large red pen out. Much as I maintain some sliver of hope that the Liberals will eke through with a bare minority on election night, I have already accepted the seemingly-inevitable election of Harper and his cabal of right-wing maniacs. At this point, the best I am seriously hoping for is that a few candidates that I like (Scott Brison, Michael Ignatieff, Belinda Stronach, Mark Holland, and I dare say Svend Robinson, Olivia Chow, Lorne Nystrom and James Moore) win and keep their seats, and a few candidates I loathe (Jim Flaherty and several assorted members of the religious right like Rondo Thomas, Lois Brown and Rob freaking Anders) lose theirs.

Conventional wisdom has it that Paul Martin will step down if he loses. Some are saying, however, that he won't. "Some" includes veteral political strategist and Chretien war-roomer Warren Kinsella. We'll see if Warren is right again, but I certainly hope he's not, because what he's saying is very worrisome. I'll simply hope that his vehement dislike of Paul Martin is clouding his judgment on this one, because if Paul loses, I don't know how else to say that he's just gotta go. He's already damaged goods at this point, and the odds of him actually leading the Liberal Party to recovery are slim. It would require a political comeback worthy of Mackenzie King, who had already served as prime minister for a decade when he returned from the opposition benches. Simply put, it isn't going to happen.

A lot of the problem is the people around Martin. Maybe I'm misreading him, but I do think he's smart enough to know when he can't win, and he's a loyal enough party man not to drag the party down with him in his personal quest to fulfil his father's dream. His inner circle, however, will not want to see him go unless they've got a replacement locked up. They worked for ten years to take over the party from the bottom up, and made a lot of enemies along the way. (The above-cited Mr. Kinsella, a pit bull you would much rather have on your side than working against you among them.) If another leader takes over, and he (or she) is not one of their creatures, and especially if it's someone from the wing of the party they've been alienating, say, a Chretien loyalist like Martin Cauchon or John Manley, not only can they kiss their jobs goodbye, but they can say goodbye to any real degree of influence within the party. They have struggled for too long to get to where they are today, and the only way they can be sure to hold onto their positions is to keep their guy in power for as long as possible.

There are of course the rumours that senior Martinites (names like Scott Reid and David Herle have been floated around) are already approaching Frank McKenna, currently the Ambassador to Washington and long seen as a potential front-runner, with offers to support his leadership aspirations. McKenna, however, is probably smart enough to avoid the people who blew election #1 and lost election #2. In fact, any leadership candidate who hopes to win not only the leadership but the next election would hopefully be smart enough to avoid giving these guys too much influence, as they are clearly incompetent. So we're back to sticking with Martin, really their only realistic shot at maintaining power.

(Incidentally, I can count on one hand the number of former premiers who have successfully become prime minister - actually, I can count it on two fingers - Thompson and Tupper. Remember them? Not so much? Yeah... former premiers who failed to become prime minister, on the other hand, include such names as Robert Stanfield, Tommy Douglas, George Drew and John Bracken. That that this precludes any premiers from becoming prime minister, I'm just saying.)

It would, of course, be bad for the Liberal Party for Paul Martin to stick around if he loses. Not only would he and his team go on to lose another election, but the division in the party would be, to use a fun phrase I learned during Hurricane Katrina, "past critical". As I mentioned, the conventional wisdom is that Martin will step down if he loses, so if he doesn't, expect some cries for blood. Hopefully, if he's not motivated to step down by what's best for the party, he will be motivated by wanting to avoid the same fate that he inflicted upon his predecesor, and step aside gracefully, notwithstanding the pleas of his inner circle to stay on.

Because love him or hate him, he's just not a winner, and this is almost undoubtable at this point; it will be undoubtable if he loses this one. Stephen Harper will be hoping Paul Martin stays on as leader, and that should tell you something. The Tories will want that just like Mulroney wanted Turner to stay on after 1984, and just like the Republicans are hoping for Hilary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee in 2008.

So, if Paul Martin wins this election, then he has earned another term as prime minister, and possibly the right to lead the party into another election. However, if he loses again, for the good of the party, the country and his own personal reputation, it would be best if he simply, gracefully, stepped aside.


At 1/17/2006 4:59 a.m., Blogger Red Tory said...

There's a reason they call it a POST-mortem you know... ;-)

At 1/17/2006 12:16 p.m., Blogger CentreWrite said...

I kind of hop you get your way with some of your candidates, Holland, and Belinda being up on that list. Esp Belinda because Lois Brown is crazy. Having said that I think some of your hopefulls are in trouble. Iggy being one of them.


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