An interesting story popped up on Friday, which raises a few questions about the whole Harper-Mulroney “feud” that has erupted within the Conservative party. The Toronto Star – quoting an unnamed source, mind you – reports that while Harper was out of the country, he approved of the “leaks” that Mulroney had torn up his Conservative membership.
Why is this important? Because Harper then spent the rest of his European trip denying any knowledge of what was going on, at one point saying that he couldn’t comment as was hearing different things about it. (Macleans.ca has a convenient little timeline here).
Apparently, this source of the Star’s says that Harper did it in order to create more distance between himself and Mulroney, and between the perceptions in the minds of the Canadian public of the “new” Conservatives versus the “old” Conservatives. He apparently got more than he bargained for.
The fact that there were further leaks from the caucus, especially the rather graphic retelling of the caucus meeting where there was heckling and faces being buried into hands, means that this perhaps caused a few more internal feuds than perhaps Harper had bargained for. That there was a leak of that sort at all speaks to a slipping in his iron grip of his caucus, and it highlights to the public the internal divisions within the party.
What does this mean to the public? Well, most obviously something like this might persuade an old Progressive Conservative voter that this party is not worth their time, especially as they have actively shunned that “wing” of the party. In fact, I’d say this was likelier to happen than convincing other voters that this is in fact a different Conservative party than that of Brian Mulroney, and they’ll be persuaded to vote for Harper instead.
In fact, this line of thinking may be even more self-sabotaging, given that Mulroney still commands a segment of the party machinery in Quebec – you know, where Harper is more than struggling in the polls right now, but is rather downright plummeting. One columnist has said that if Harper were still getting advice from Mulroney that perhaps he wouldn’t have made those two fatal errors in Quebec during the last election that cost him the vote there.
More than anything else, this kind of revelation – if proven true, and it certainly sounds true – just goes to show that Harper is so busy trying to play the game, trying to be the great Vulcan three-dimensional chess master, that he seems to forget that there are real people in the equation, and that Canadians don’t simply respond like chess pieces being moved around the board.