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Jay Currie

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6/14/2005

Harper Agonistes

The Tories have fallen precipitously in the polls in the past two weeks because the Grewal mismanagement has merely confirmed for voters sceptical about them that they aren't ready to govern.

And fair or unfair, when coupled with voters existing doubts about Harper's personality, the conclusion is it is time for Stephen to think long and hard about his future.

I hope he stays. I hope he decides to clean house in his communications office and also dedicate himself to developing a more amenable media persona.

I think general public disgust with the Liberals gives him a chance to remake himself and push the Conservatives to victory. But he has to think about what he is prepared to do.
Lorne Gunter
Gunter is writing about the National Post Editorial today which largely came from Gunter's own pen. In it the Post's editorial board says,
we imagine the trouble lies with how the message is being delivered. Mr. Harper is a glum, moody figure who has shown little enthusiasm for the rituals of mass-media politics and for the simple glad-handing expected of party chiefs. And instead of hiring communications staff who make up for these weaknesses, he has hired glum, clannish people who reinforce them.
national post
If only it was this simple.

In fact, the roots of the CPC's inability to attract voters do not begin in the communications office of the Leader - no matter how inept that office appears to be. Rather they run much deeper: the communications office has nothing to communicate because the CPC has decided it has no policy other than yelling "Me, too!" whenever the Liberals say something particularily idiotic.

If your policy is to ape the Governing party then your choice for differntiation in the voter's minds is all about style. No one with the least sense of political saavy would accuse Harper of having any style whatsoever. His entire presentation screams wonk.

Problem is that wonks want to talk about policy and are only animated by substance. So long as the Tories remain afraid of alienating Ontario voters with, well, conservative policies, there is nothing for a wonk to talk about.

Certainly Harper should think about his role in the CPC. But his thoughts should be conditioned by the fact that the "Me, too!" strategy combined with finger pointing on corruption and utterly inept message management have left the Tories miles behind in the polls. The content free, corruption all the time, strategy has actually lost Harper support in Ontario.

Maybe it is time for Harper to let loose his inner wonk and start talking about his vision for Canada. Time to ditch the politics of exclusion embodied in the anti-SSM position, time to embrace individual rights as the cornerstone of a conservative philosophy, time to demand real change in the shoddy delivery of public healthcare, time for an articulated version of a decentralized Canada with a postive platform to include Quebec rather than merely bribing the Quebecois. Time to say that Canadians should be allowed to spend an increasing amount of the money they earn.

If Harper comes back from his summer willing to tell the spinners in his own party to stuff it and a willingness to attack the absolute lack of any Liberal vision for Canada, then he should stay on as leader. But, if he comes back with the determination to "developing a more amenable media persona" he may as well stay home because that is not going to win the next election.