Just another political party after all

Bob Wakeham
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Somewhere, in an expensive-looking, wood-panelled basement den in a half-million dollar home in the east end of St. John’s this past week, there could very well have been, at least in my warped imagination, a scene of profound sadness.

A morose, deeply depressed NDP baby-boomer, a rubber booter from the ’70s, a Ship Inn regular at a time the party was perceived largely in these parts as an inconsequential, harmless, idealistic but lovable and loving crowd of losers, dusts off an ancient guitar. 

With tears streaming down his cheeks, he sips his second glass of wine, and starts to sob through another verse of the sadly appropriate: “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore.”

Reaching in the ashtray for the last of his withered joint, he has a toke, rubs one of his chubby, liver-spotted hands through what's left of his once-flowing mane, and shakes his head in disbelief and disillusionment as he tries to fathom what was once, to him, incomprehensible: his NDP caucus heroes, those four stalwarts of goodness towards their fellow man (or person, since this is, after all, the New Democrats), loyal souls he thought would ride on white stallions to the electoral promised (new found) land, have broken his former hippie heart and have shown they're no better than any other Newfoundland politicians, just a bunch of sleeveens, capable of the worse kind of gutter politics.

Time, he cries quietly to  himself, for a little Dylan: “Come gather round people, wherever you are roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown…”

True, I’m deeply entrenched in caricatures here, in endless search of a cheap laugh, but my shallow attempt at humour doesn’t dismiss the fact that any foolish notion that the NDP, those socially conscious lefties, the good guys and gals, could remain above the fray of nasty politics, has been irrevocably shattered, and tossed like a fading poster of Tommy Douglas (or maybe Che Guevara) into a bonfire on the beach at Middle Cove. 

Yessir. A rough week for the provincial NDP.

As for me? I loved it. From a journalistic point of view, it was impossible to resist, just downright juicy and sexy.

You can’t beat political cannibalism. And I’ve been there before, up front and personal with either a notebook or microphone, when the Liberals and the Tories feasted on their own.

Now, it’s the NDP’s turn to sidle up to that sort of infamous table and show the province its disciples are not averse to munching down a colleague or friend, or both.

The ubiquitous David Cochrane, CBC ‘s star of this era (enjoy it while it lasts, David) could hardly contain himself — I thought he was going to pee on himself right there in the studio — when he broke the story of the Michael Mutiny.

And who could blame him? I would have danced, too.

And on the “Radio Noon” broadcast on Tuesday, there was a delightful pig-out as host John Furlong, the grizzled, elbows-raised veteran, combined with the excitable and younger Cochrane (a bit like having Gordie Howe and Sidney Crosby on the same reportorial line) to grill a number of participants and players in the back-stabbing of Ms. Michael.

It was as informative and entertaining an hour of radio as I’ve heard in a long time.

Worse for the NDP

Of course, this was anything but a sexy and entertaining week if you happen to be an NDP devotee; it was a disastrous train wreck, with the four conductors — Gerry Rogers, George Murphy, Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore — plowing their own version of the Newfie Bullet into a gigantic pile of dung on the Gaff Topsails and emerging in the caucus caboose with a stench that will remain with them for much, much longer than they could ever imagine.

I believe the understatement of the week came from the aforementioned Rogers, who admitted that the way in which she and her fellow mavericks went about telling Michael the love affair was over may have been “clumsy.”           

She also attempted an apology, perceived, I’m sure, to anybody with a half a grain of sense, as disingenuous and desperate.

And Murphy and Mitchelmore fruitlessly tried to backtrack as well (Kirby was still maintaining his Fletcher Christian role early in the week).   

But it was way too late, for apologies and retreats. The public saw the rebellion — or certainly the way the rebellion was launched — as cowardly and cruel.

There were more civil ways to address questions of leadership, if, in fact, the dishonourable four believed that Michael could never be peddled as a premier, and would always remain a well-respected, well-liked, well-admired head of an opposition party, period. 

But they botched their little revolt. 

And now they’re hearing the most damaging of questions: if they could make a balls of this, how could they possibly run a province? For the love of God, they can't even backstab with efficiency.         

But have pity, if you will, for my imaginary friend created a few paragraphs back, he who thought the NDP was as pure as the driven snow.                       

His bubble has been burst, wide open.

Oh the horror. The horror.   


Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: NDP, Ship Inn, CBC

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • david
    October 28, 2013 - 11:39

    The Sidney Crosby comparison is just sad...because it reveals how starved Newfoundland is for a real reporter --- anyone --- who will ask a tough question or break a story, instead of just patiently awaiting a call for a scheduled, issue-purposed "interview. And here we are....

  • wavy
    October 26, 2013 - 18:31

    Brilliant. One of the best op eds I think I've read, ever. Thanks for that!