A good friend of mine, still hauling in a paycheque and short by a year or so of the time needed to allow for a financially sensible exit from Mother Corp’s bosom, sparked in me a temporary hit of envy the other day when he mentioned in passing his schedule for chasing politicians over the next three weeks.
Not that I have any desire to return to the news business; it’s been nearly 40 years since I banged out my first story, more than enough time to have spent under the masthead or in front of a microphone or managing the work of other journalists.
Missing the fray
But I have to admit I do recall the adrenalin rush of a provincial election campaign, those incredibly long but invigorating days, hopping from buses to helicopters in pursuit of party leaders (a free-of-charge and unique way to see parts of the province that I would have probably never seen), gobbling down one stringy piece of chicken after another, filing stories in the wee hours of the morning and then starting all over a short nap later.
It had its drawbacks, of course: listening to the same insomnia-
curing speeches night after night did provoke the occasional desire to throw up behind the local Legion where a rally had taken place.
But those Gravol moments were more than offset by the egotistical chance to put into perspective (a goal aided by a decent dose of irreverence and skepticism) the endless promises of the party leaders (most of which were destined to rot in the blue, orange and red books), part of the quintessential political sales pitch called the election campaign.
And, yes, it was a big-headed power trip of sorts, especially for the youngish reporters, knowing the politicians were eating out of their hands, desperately trying to curry favour with the gang of news hounds barking at their heels. (The average reader, viewer or listener out there may not realize it, but most respectable newsrooms try to prevent either cynical or sycophantic coverage from occurring by switching reporters around on the campaign trail, never allowing their journalists to get too cosy or angry with the leaders, a philosophy I’ve always found to be laudable).
Notwithstanding my selective memory of engaging campaigns of the past, I’m not sure that even in my prime I would have wanted to endure three weeks of the listless, boring and predictable pursuit of votes this present one is shaping up to be.
What used to intrigue me years ago were knock-down, drag-out scraps, complete with a high entertainment level, excitable, quotable and even nasty leaders, and outcomes in doubt right up to polling day.
Those are not the sort of ingredients one can expect from the 2011 fall election in Newfoundland. Certainly not at this point.
First of all, barring a sex scandal implicating the cabinet with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Kathy Dunderdale and her Tories are going to breeze to victory, and they have Danny Williams to thank for that.
For sure, a rift has existed between Dunderdale and Williams; the former premier has, indeed, refused to go gently into the night and his retirement months have been punctuated by moments of gracelessness — towards his successor in particular.
Outcome seems set
But the PCs are going to form the next government largely, if not exclusively, due to the Williams pulverization of the Liberals. Dangerous Dan and K.O. Kath, a political tag-team match: Williams threw the Liberals to the mat, got the mandatory three-count, and then handed over the bloodied and beaten combatant to Dunderdale.
The only storyline of note so far, as anyone with a pulse has become aware, is the distinct possibility the NDP could form the official opposition, a startling breakthrough for the left-of-centre types — and for Newfoundland as a whole, the NDP will argue — given the fact that we’ve had over 60 years of Liberal and PC governance, Liberal and PC oppositions, and that a change of some sort is long overdue.
If the NDP does wind up in an historic second place, it’ll be due to a successful romp in and around St. John’s, an area where we’re told most of their support exists.
The forlorn Liberals, meanwhile, will be looking for votes in rural Newfoundland, their traditional stomping ground.
As one television reporter summed up the other night, the Liberals are going after the baymen, the NDPers are going after the townies, and the Tories are going after both.
Damn it all, I couldn’t have put it much better myself.
And perhaps I would have, if younger and still fond of life on the hustings.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.