Monday, June 13, 2005

BIG PROBLEMS FOR HARPER

Well, the Tories have been getting pretty badly bodyslammed in the press recently. There was that Decima poll last week that had them behind even the NDP in Ontario, and there's total sniping from everyone about how bad the poll numbers still are even though this Liberal government is mired in Adscam and has all kinds of ethical issues surrounding them.

The papers are just killing the Tories and more particularly Stephen Harper. The Edmonton Sun derisively called them the Not Ready for Prime Time Players and mused that the party is really lucky not to be in an election campaign right now because they would surely be cruising to a big defeat. The National Post has an editorial today blasting Harper and the people running the party. They write:
We are not calling on Mr. Harper to resign. But recent events have put into question whether he is the man who should be leading the Conservatives. In particular, the failure of the party to surge ahead of the Liberals in popular support, even as the government has been buried in scandal, and Mr. Harper's misplaced trust in Gurmant Grewal's claims regarding his jobs-for-votes tapes, suggest this is a good time for reflection.
They say they aren't calling for him to resign, but they might as well have with those statements. What's troubling for Harper is that this criticism isn't coming from the usual suspects like the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. This is the Sun chain and the National Post doing the griping. These are people who are supposed to be the party's friends, saying this. When you have that happening, boy, that's trouble.
Honestly, though, whether you want to admit it or not, Stephen Harper just led the Tories to a major, major defeat in the House of Commons on that confidence vote. They lost that vote not only numerically in the Commons, but in the court of public opinion as well. They couldn't get the people of Canada angry enough to demand that their MPs take down this government. If they had, there's no way any of these independents or even Jack Layton would have been rushing back to Ottawa to prop the government up. Nobody wanted an election, and Harper just couldn't inspire any Canadians to want any election to boot the Liberals out. If he had, I think we would have gotten an election. And then you have the GREWAL mess, which made the party look like Watergate wire-tappers.
I feel Harper has to do some thinking as well. He's got to ask himself whether he honestly believes that he's the man to lead this party to victory, especially in Ontario. I can tell you this, the Tories have no shot in Toronto right now. It's not all Harper's fault, but the Tories ain't gonna win a thing in Toronto with him as leader. People would rather go with "the devil you know", so they keep on telling me (repeating Joe Clark's PR talking point line over and over again), claiming they still don't know Harper and feel he has a hidden agenda.
He also has to honestly think about whether he is ready to get rid of the people around him who've been giving him bad political advice over the past several months, and start putting in place some pros who will be ready to tell him what he needs to hear as opposed to what he wants to hear. Among other things, he's got a lot of serious image problems. A lot of people are harping about the usual complaints, that he's too angry, that he hasn't got a clear vision of what the Tories will actually do. (The Sun was ranting and raving about that.) And besides that, the whole party comes out of the last couple of months looking pretty inept. But the biggest problem, I think, is that Harper looks like a guy who doesn't entirely believe his own line of bull on stage when he gives his policy speeches. Instead, it looks like he's adopted a bunch of policies he doesn't really care about, just to get elected. And that makes him suspect in the eyes of voters who think he may have other ideas. Look at all the policies he's adopted over the past several months, agreeing with the Liberals on policy after policy. So as a result the passion is not there for the vision of the country that he's trying to sell to people, a vision which right now consists entirely of getting rid of a bunch of corrupt people and replacing them with less corrupt people. A vision now up in smoke, thanks to Gurmant Grewal.
At least when someone like Jim Flaherty or Tony Clement or Ralph Klein or John Tory or Mike Harris or someone like that gets up to speak, you're inclined to believe what they say, because their heart is in it. Stephen Harper has to decide whether his heart really is in it. Because the party is going nowhere without a leader who believes in his agenda and has a clear vision for the country.
My suggestion: start selling a line of bull that you actually believe in which will sell with the voters. Simple formula, but it's bound to work.
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And in other news Gilles Duceppe has decided to stay in Ottawa and keep the Bloc in fighting trim. Frankly, this is good news for sovereigntists all around. They get fresh blood in Quebec City and they stay strong in Ottawa. Which unfortunately is bad news for Canada. I know a lot of people were saying Duceppe would give the PQ a better shot at beating Jean Charest, but frankly I think anyone can beat Charest the way things are going in Quebec these days. There are also rumors that Bernard Landry may try and run for his old job again. Strange times in Quebec politics.

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