The political pile-on was shameful

Gerry Phelan
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This time they got it right. I’m talking about the Dunderdale crowd, the ones who often get targeted for doing a poor job of communicating their message. Their spin after Tom Osborne’s flight from the PC ranks was dead-on; the puppets in caucus obviously got their speaking notes handed to them in bold. The problem is, they forgot something they often preach: people don’t like bullies.

I know I’m a bit late on this, but it has to be said. There are several Tories who should be ashamed of themselves. The nasty, vindictive reaction to Osborne’s decision was ridiculous. Some of the crowd had best buy yoga pants to keep them comfortable in the bending and stretching of politics and friendship.

I’d love to see the notification that must have been sent out even as Osborne was in front of the cameras. Oh right, those internal political messages are probably on the list of things access to information doesn’t allow. Suffice to say, the Tory lampposts were probably told to use those now famous words. Tom was disconnected, disengaged, deadwood. The boys — and some girls — from the hill were on Twitter like wolves baying at the moon. I wonder if even for a moment any of the crowd remembered in their dirty comments like “good riddance” that they were tearing down a family that had kept the party going when being Tory was almost a dirty word.

Let’s look at a few obvious points neglected in some of the commentary on the Osborne escape. He ran under a leader he didn’t support. He’s not the only one and it happens after every leadership contest. Even unsuccessful leadership candidates often find themselves in the cabinet of the elected leader. Yes, Tom Osborne probably did tell Kathy he would endorse her. He showed unity at a time when it was needed, when some were wondering how an interim leader who wasn’t going to run for the leadership suddenly became the only candidate.  

So Osborne voted for that controversial freedom of information bill, even though he didn’t like it. Much has been made about that. Hello — what do we think party whips are for? The online encyclopedia Wikipedia says “a whip is an official in a political party whose primary purpose is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. Whips are a party’s ‘enforcers,’ who typically offer inducements and threaten punishments for party members to ensure that they vote according to the official party policy.”   

Hmm. I guess Osborne had plenty of choice in that vote. And if he had chosen at that particular time to stand up to his own crowd, who would have suffered? Not him. He had it coming anyway. His constituents likely, and maybe some of the things that might go undone in his riding or the next time he needed to call a cabinet minister’s office to seek help for a resident of St. John’s South.  

Do you think for a second that every single government MHA agrees with every single piece of legislation that goes through the House of Assembly? Not a chance. Party discipline means they toe the line.  

The premier says Osborne had indicated only six months ago he wanted a greater role in her government. What would be so surprising about that? Maybe he wanted to try change from within, instead of peeing outside the tent.

Wouldn’t the party have been better off trying to mend the fence, to work with him instead of around him? Isn’t that what a team does, rally around the player who may be hurt, on a bad streak or having a rough time of it?

The knives from caucus have gotten more than Osborne’s blood. They also sport the plasma of some silent lambs, who now see what will happen should they dare raise objections to Muskrat Falls or other government measures.   

Fabian Manning, who has some experience in being on the outs with provincial Tories, told VOCM that sitting as an independent is a very lonely place.

You can be lonely sitting in a room with 36 other people.

Tom Osborne already knows how that feels.  

Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster. He can be reached at

Organizations: Tory

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls

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Recent comments

  • roy
    September 21, 2012 - 12:03

    Sorry, but I don't feel bad for Tom Osborne. Maybe it's because I don't trust any politicians. I do think he's as good as anyone else in politics but he is a political animal like the rest of them. I don't buy his reasons for leaving. We elect our representatives to do what is best for us. If he felt so strongly about the reasons for leaving then why didn't he speak up and act when doing so could have made a difference. Not months later. Yes, he most likely would have ended up turfed out like Fabian but at least he would have taken a stand when it was the right time to do so. Instead, he leaves when it finally becomes apparent that he will never again obtain a Cabinet position in these end days of Tory rule.

  • Doug Smith
    September 21, 2012 - 10:36

    Mr. Phalen, I’m very disappointed in you. True the Dunderdale puppets ganged up on Mr. Osborne. However, that fact is just peripheral to the most important issue. Secrecy Bill 29, is not just any old piece of legislation. It is an attack on one of the foundations of a free and democratic society, that is transparency in government. Any infringement on the people’s right to know what their elected representatives are doing in the public domain should be resisted at all costs. When a politician like Mr. Osborne says he voted for Bill 29 although he knew it was wrong, he immediately loses any trust or credibility he may have had . How can we ever believe anything he says concerning important public issues? How can you, Mr. Phelan, whether as a concerned citizen or responsible journalist support a politician who goes along with weakening the public’s right to know even when he admits it was wrong to do so? Doesn’t your support of Mr. Osborne make you even more than him a danger to the twin pillars of democracy , that is transparency and accountability. Doug Smith,GFW

    • Eli
      September 21, 2012 - 11:47

      Doug, ever hear of somebody (including ourselvesw) mending their ways?

  • Austin
    September 21, 2012 - 08:37

    There is a saying that when everyone speaks with the same voice that only one is doing the thinking. It's refreshing to see someone turn away from the herd. Unfortunately, such a move reflects independent thinking and, in all governments, that is not kosher. The leader leads. All others follow. Maybe that's why a lot of competent people shun the political arena.

  • Eli
    September 21, 2012 - 08:31

    Steve he sure as hell did nail it on the head here for sure, especially his referral to those cowardly rats who jumped all over the "disengage" message. But are we forgetting the creators of that message?

  • John Smith
    September 21, 2012 - 08:29

    ...they also sport the plasma of silent lambs...ha ha ha ...yes there is some great writing for ya...LOL he will be up for the Giller with Russel(butterflies and Rainbows)wangersky next year...what a joke...

    • greyhound
      September 21, 2012 - 10:40

      Mr. Smith, if you are somehow attached to what was once a strong party the message in your comments are exactly what Gerry is speaking of. The abysmal behaviour of the current administration is childish and booish; keep it up and Ms. Dunderdale and the PCs favour with the voters will be down there with the Liberals, which they like to make smug comments about. (what goes around, comes around)

  • Steve
    September 21, 2012 - 08:02

    I wondered when Gerry Phelan made the transition to columnist whether he had it in him. Apparently he does. His writing has impressed me at every turn. Once again, he nails it.