Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Is Iggy Playing in the Tory Litterbox?

I guess it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Michael Ignatieff appears to be doing what he can to stir up the animosity between the PC loyalists and the Reformers in the CPC ranks over Brian Mulroney.

Tories can blame Stephen Harper. Why not? He deserves it. In keeping with his Stalinist ways, Harper tried to 'disappear' Brian Mulroney, demanding that his entire caucus - including old friends of BMBM, sever all contacts with the Boy from Baie Comeau.

Mulroney, as we know, was more influential than Preston Manning in launching the Reform/Alliance/Conservative movement. It was Mulroney's scandal-wracked government that drove Progressive Conservatives in the West into the arms of Manning's Reform Party. Without Mulroney to kick start them, the Reform Party might have remained an angry bunch of Alberta social conservatives formerly known as the Progressive Conservative 'fringe'.

But the Reform movement had its own rot. That much was apparent when a guy like Stockwell Day was able to bump out Preston to become leader. And weren't those the days, if you were a Liberal. Kicking Stockwell to the curb became child's play. Any notion of uniting the right was out of the question with Day at the helm.

And then along came Steve. What a guy, both more and less than met the eye. A closet Southern Republican, baptized in social conservative ideology, he spent his public political career desperately trying not to be seen for what and who he is. The closest thing Canada has ever had to Tom Delay and Grover Norquist's love child.

Peter MacKay won the Tory leadership, on bended knee pledged never to surrender the Progressive Conservative brand, it's long and proud history. to the Alliance and then promptly did just that. A supposed 'merger' of the parties that was never more than an unconditional surrender. Even 'Progressive' had to go, it wouldn't be needed in the new Social Conservative Party of Canada. While he was at it, Harper moved to erase the vestiges of Preston Manning, especially his bent for participatory, "grass roots" democracy. Steve was all The Decider the new Conservatives would need, or at least all they would get while he was running the show.

Being a thoroughly unlikeable guy, a cold stiff, usually isn't a formula for success in democratic politics but, like a Newfie on a harp seal pup, Steve was able to use the Chretien-administration sponsorship scandal to bludgeon the Martin government into oblivion. Despite a Liberal Party leadership in disarray, Harper was never able to cinch the deal, never able to get beyond a minority.

Harper needed a solid majority win to cement his hold on the Conservative Party. He swallowed his pride and, along with it, his ideology and theocratic instincts, in order to play moderate centrist but he was never quite able to grab the brass ring. There were times that poll numbers suggested he could squeak out a bare majority but those moments passed as quickly as they came.

People like Harper have most to fear from those closest to them. Like Caesar, they get assassinated on the Senate floor. When you play emperor and reserve all powers to yourself, governing by dictate instead of consensus, you play a dangerous game. It's like telling everybody that, henceforth they're all going to prefer the same flavour of ice cream - your favourite. Which leads us to where we are today with Harper and Mulroney.

When Harper ordered the Conservative caucus to henceforth shun Mulroney it was a real 'him or me' moment, even if not fully comprehended. Harper drew a line in the sand but this time he might have gone too far. That's the danger with lingering resentments. They're smouldering fires that, given just a bit of breeze, can burst into flame.

Iggy is doing what he can to fan the embers. He sent Muldoon happy birthday wishes. He's now chiding Conservatives who've turned their back on Mulroney, siding with the dissidents in arguing that they at least owe their former leader a measure of respect and fellowship.

The Globe & Mail speculates, as I did the other day, that these surfacing tensions could be a harbinger of what's expected to come out at the Oliphant hearings into Mulroney's dealings with Schreiber:

...Mr. Harper's representatives went to great lengths to defend the former prime minister when the House of Commons ethics committee looked into the matter. Yet, based on Mr. Panetta's report, it appears that Mulroney loyalists within the Conservative caucus are still not satisfied. With one notable exception: Sen. Marjory LeBreton - the ultimate Mulroney loyalist - confirmed that Mr. Mulroney had asked that his membership be cancelled.

Is this simply because Ms. LeBreton - whose history in the party goes back to the Diefenbaker period - has always operated on the principle of loyalty to the leader? Or, might it be that she feels betrayed by what we already know about Mr. Mulroney's dealings with Mr. Schreiber? Most intriguingly, could Ms. LeBreton, who served as Mr. Mulroney's deputy chief of staff, have an inkling of what's to come as the inquiry unfolds?

Jesse Michaels at Canoe.ca, a self-professed "proud, former Progressive Conservative" ponders whether this could be the beginning of the end of the united right:

The Prime Minister’s Office has been at the forefront of the attacks, claiming that Mr. Mulroney was no longer a card-carrying member of the party and dispatching various mouthpieces to insist that Tories have no further contact with him. Shamefully, Senator Marjorie LeBreton acted on behalf of the PMO, even though she has been a Mulroney confident, spokesperson and supporter.

...It was only a matter of time for the shotgun wedding that created the “new” Conservative party to starting fraying at the seams. ...Anyone know the stats on shotgun weddings that lead to divorce?

I think Ignatieff has done about as much as he should to egg on the adversaries within the Tory ranks. From here on in it should be left to Harper, Mulroney, their supporters, and a judge named Oliphant.

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