Danny Williams must view politics, and its cousins — power, influence and ego — in much the same way a sex addict views aphrodisiacs, or a hung-over alcoholic views a dozen cold beer on a Saturday morning. Or how the druggie views a line of coke, or an over-eater views a monstrous chocolate cake, or a gambling addict views a string of blackjack tables in Atlantic City, N.J.
He just can’t help himself.
Hi, my name is Dan W. And I’m a power addict.
Hi, Dan. Thanks for sharing.
Now, I’m sure there are those out there in Dannyland who would argue that their spiritual leader was dragged, kicking and screaming, into Wednesday’s byelection and the Tory leadership affair, as well, just like Michael Corleone, Al Pacino’s character in “The Godfather: Part III” being forced to re-enter his old profession: “Just when I thought I was out,” Michael complains, in that raw, vintage-Pacino style, “they pull me back in.” (“The Godfather: Part III” was as disappointing a movie as I’ve ever seen, coming nowhere even close to matching the brilliance of “The Godfather: Part I” or “The Godfather: Part II”).
But it took little coaxing to get Danny back into the family.
In fact, he must have been going through political withdrawal the last couple of years, just praying with every novena at its disposal for another kick at the cat. To say the least, Williams couldn’t very well lend a helping hand to Kathy Dunderdale, given that she gave him the cold shoulder almost immediately after she had been crowned Tory leader.
And the fact that she dared to ignore her former boss probably caused Danny to sit back smugly with a great big smile as she fell from grace.
She’s gone, of course, leaving behind the leadership and her seat in Virginia Waters, both conveniently in place for Danny to feed his addiction. (Come to think of it, Williams should give Kathy a call and thank her immensely for helping to provide him with a hit or two of political methadone).
So, the man who once publicly chastised Brian Peckford for offering a few opinions on Newfoundland public affairs, and basically implied that former premiers should — as adults are fond of saying about youngsters — be seen and not heard, started popping up on television screens and newspaper pages during the last couple of weeks of the byelection campaign.
And he undoubtedly brought the scattered Newfoundland Tory right out of their living room chesterfield with his supper-hour appearances on “Here and Now” and the “NTV Evening News.”
Hallelujah, many of them must have shouted to the heavens upon seeing their saviour gobbling down chips with Tom Marshall and Danny Breen and revelling in every nod in his direction.
But it was for naught, as we saw Wednesday night; a squeaker, no doubt, but one in which Danny’s boy did not come out on top.
Conventional wisdom has it that Williams made the outcome closer than it would have been, but you have to wonder, nevertheless, whether Danny may have lost his touch, and whether, in fact, it was a mistake for the Breen backroom boys to have gotten their former boss involved in this byelection, whether they would have been better off to have left the former premier to his pucks and bucks.
I had the sense Danny 2: Mr. Breen, was lost in the shadow of Danny 1, and just maybe the voters of Virginia Waters wanted someone who was completely independent and willing to let his reputation (which is not all that shabby) speak for itself, rather than being led along by a big brother, a mentor, a guardian angel, a hand-holder. Perhaps that cost Breen a few, invaluable votes.
Then again, it could have been that the Virginia Waters voters are a pragmatic crowd, and know that it’ll take a huge turnaround for the Tories to win the next election; that there’s only so many votes the incumbents on Confederation Hill can buy over the next year or so with their purse strings wide open, and only so many constituents they can bring back to the fold with their expedient reviews of the access to information legislation and other mistakes of an administration they’d like the public to conveniently forget.
Maybe the Virginia Waters residents wanted their MHA to be in the government ranks eventually, a cabinet minister if the Liberals form the next government.
Of course, they had a cabinet minister — a premier, for pity’s sakes — as their MHA, and her career ended in disgrace. Be careful what you wish for, as the old warning goes.
In any case, this week’s byelection was one of the more interesting in recent times: three top-notch candidates and a provincial political scene in a state of flux.
And there are many people, of all political stripes, who are probably hoping — justifiably so, if you ask me — that both Sheilagh O’Leary and Danny Breen take another shot at provincial politics down the road. The Newfoundland legislature could do worse.
Next time he’s on the hustings, though, Breen might want to think about leaving Williams behind, and stand on his own two feet.
Let Danny 1 find his own way to feed his addiction. Through the small matter of a leadership convention, for example.
My name is Dan W. And I need the power.
Hi, Dan. Thanks for sharing.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.