Flipping a coin might be the easiest way to decide whether Premier Tom Marshall or former premier Danny Williams made the most moronic statement Wednesday night after the Virginia Waters byelection results were in.
In case you haven’t heard, Liberal Cathy Bennett won.
Marshall and Williams must not have heard, at the respective times they addressed the media, because they each made bold proclamations that were demonstrably false.
“We’re back in the game,” Marshall said.
Williams said PC candidate Danny Breen “pulled this to a draw tonight.”
No they’re not, and no he didn’t.
A draw, a tie, would entail equality, i.e., the same sum — of goals, of touchdowns, of votes.
When a football team trots off the field after losing 40-0, you don’t expect the coach to say, “We played them to a draw.”
No you didn’t. You lost. Look at the scoreboard.
Speaking of 40, that’s how many votes Bennett beat Breen by — 1,932 to 1,892. Way back at the 10-yard line was NDPer Sheilagh O’Leary, still trying to recover the party’s fumble and picking up a paltry 1,021 votes.
Paltry? Indeed. Bennett’s vote count almost doubled O’Leary’s. Less than a year ago, the NDP led the public opinion polls. Today, the NDP is a formerly first-place team that has fallen out of playoff contention.
Bennett wasn’t the only big winner Wednesday. Dale Kirby is a step closer to a seat around the Liberal cabinet table.
Kirby gained fame as the quarterback who called the play that led to the NDP being sacked for a big loss.
The NDP had been a short run from the goal line, but these days the team in orange is about a mile and a half out of field goal range.
“Next time around, we’ll bury them,” Williams said. “I’m very proud to be a Conservative tonight, let me tell you.”
Maybe it wasn’t really Danny Williams uttering such nonsense. Maybe it was Mark Critch doing his popular Danny Williams shtick.
“Look where we were in the polls,” Marshall said. “We’re back.”
Contrary to Williams and Marshall’s twisted interpretation of events, let’s look at the situation objectively: the Tories lost by a slim margin, but their most noteworthy achievement was that they didn’t get the pulverizing slaughter they deserved.
The close finish is easily explained. There were two conservatives in the race.
Given that the NDP can’t even hold a huddle without an argument breaking out between teammates, Virginia Waters voters essentially faced a choice between a Liberal conservative and a Tory conservative.
Marshall’s optimism is probably misplaced.
Of course, part of his job as party leader and premier is to pass off statements of fantasy as factual and analytical.
But to interpret Wednesday’s byelection result as proof that the PCs have overcome the public’s contempt and loathing is surely mistaken.
Such a conclusion would mean voters have forgiven the Tories for more than a decade of arrogance, secrecy and unrepentant PCism.
A true test would have been if a Tory went up against a Liberal who was liberal rather than a Tory-cum-Liberal.
Marshall’s version of events is also contrary to Newfoundland (and Labrador) culture.
Newfoundlanders, far from being the robust political animals of myth and legend, are actually like docile wimps who prefer being bullied.
After being pummelled by the right for a few years, they’ll feign disgust and insist upon being pummelled by the left for a while, after which they will once again ask for a few more rights to their willing cheeks.
Breen was just the warm-up bout. Come 2015, it will be the Liberals’ turn to take to the ring.
Brian Jones is a desk editor
at The Telegram. He can be reached