Appeared in the North Shore News – September 28, 2012
YOU read it here second: Liberal Premier Christy Clark will still be premier when she wakes up on May 15, 2013 – the day after the provincial election.
I say “second” because I first published what many will say is a laughable prediction in another place a month ago – long before last weekend’s debacle that maybe fatally wounded John Cummins’ leadership of the B.C. Conservatives, and also before Clark was let down by Ken Boessenkool.
What clinched this audacious prediction was the under-the-media-radar departure of a senior Cummins adviser with West Vancouver all-levels political credentials.
Neil McIver is first vice-president of a respected and venerable financial institution. McIver was the powerful financial director – joining Cummins “the night Christy Clark was chosen (Liberal) leader.” He quit this vital role in mid-August.
Disillusioned? No. He came aboard with Hamish Marshall, something of a whiz kid who had been manager of strategic planning for Stephen Harper. Marshall became Cummins’ campaign director, a coup for the B.C.
Conservatives and a magnet for McIver, a personal as well as political friend of Marshall.
Marshall was “the brains behind moving the party from the political wilderness” to 20 per cent in the polls, McIver said. But Marshall “had to step away for his own reasons, and I was there at (his) behest.” McIver followed out the exit door – still “absolutely loyal” to Cummins, but without Marshall the finance directorship and added policy and communications tasks required much more of McIver’s time.
Nothing more than that? The “mild insurrection” that blossomed in party ranks in recent months had nothing to do with it, McIver asserted, although there were some “original directors . . . trying to take advantage of John’s losing some people who were close to him.” There are “always a few old soldiers that . . . enjoy keeping the party in the political wilderness.”
Why? “Because they probably had a lot more influence before John Cummins showed up, and a professional team of political advisers and handlers.”
(Plausible. Often, the smaller the prize, the more bitter the in-fighting.)
McIver said there were only two or three discontents – reporters mentioned John Crocock and Ben Besler – “but they speak loudly.”
Any policy split? Nothing specific, but “in a general sense they did not feel comfortable with Mr. Cummins moving the party towards the mainstream, common-sense alternative,” McIver said.
More cryptically: “There was a reason why the B.C. Conservative party was in the political wilderness before Mr. Cummins showed up.”
Which was? “I’ll leave it at that.” Nothing speaks louder than pauses. I asked why John van Dongen, who left the Liberals in March to sit as the only Conservative MLA, repeatedly dodged when media asked about his support for Cummins. McIver paused for half an eon. Then: “I believe he is looking to make the party a better party and a more viable party.”
Good bet: This interview was on Sept. 12. McIver, a shrewd gent, likely had more than an inkling two weeks ago of van Dongen’s disloyalty, but wasn’t about to question it.
John Martin, hailed as a great find in April’s by-election, announced, exquisitely timed to cause maximum harm, that he’s jumping to the Liberals.
Van Dongen, increasingly a surly wing-nut, also quit in prime-damage time at the party’s weekend meeting and will sit as an independent, no doubt feeling around for his next opportunistic jump.
Could this be it? Bill Tieleman heard bizarre rumours that he planned to replace Cummins and then prod the Liberals to dump Clark and lead a new party.
Class acts, eh? Now who was it who said there’s a “sick culture” with “no real people” in Victoria?
Yes, some of the honoured great switched parties.
Famously, Winston Churchill. Van Dongen and Martin are no Churchills.
Devil’s advocacy: I like and admire Cummins. But, cold-eyed, I have to ask: He may be a good man, but is he a good leader? The defections aside, almost 30 per cent of members voting – a sizable chunk – supported a leadership review. By definition, a leader, through personality, ideas, charm, guile or flat bullying, must lead. On this test, Cummins flunks.
For that matter, Cummins wasn’t a poster-boy for follower-ship himself. Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer has pointed out that he was a maverick – a principled one, in my view – in the various small-c conservative federal parties leading to the Harper ascendancy. That doesn’t make him wrong. Cue Nietzsche: “We are punished best for our virtues.”
As for elaborating on my prediction of a Christy Clark victory next May. . . .
That’ll have to wait for another day.
. . .
A first, deserving of a new tradition: Caulfeild History Day, last weekend on the green in front of St. Francis-in-the-Wood Anglican Church. Vintage cars, vintage hats – and Jim Carter taking notes for a future WV history book?
© Trevor Lautens, 2012