So what’s the polite way to say this? Bill Barry was a loose cannon in the Progressive Conservative leadership campaign, a man with his own ideas who sometimes looked like he was campaigning against the policies of his own party as much as he was campaigning for its leadership.
But, like it or not, the Tories needed him. They needed him to lose, of course, but they needed him nonetheless.
His approach, as refreshingly different as it was, certainly didn’t take hold with the existing party establishment — early on, former premier Danny Williams said he would not be supporting Barry’s run for the leadership, and pretty much all of the party establishment was lining up behind the other candidate in the race, Corner Brook businessman Frank Coleman.
There’s been a steady, regular drip of cabinet ministers coming out to support Coleman, and nothing to back Barry.
Here’s the way Barry put it: “During recent weeks and the announcements by eight cabinet ministers that I could not be considered as a possible choice to lead any of them calls into question why I would continue. As of now, not a single member of caucus has seen fit to place support in my direction. I am encouraged to continue but I have to ask — why would I and why am I being encouraged? I have always stated that the message is more important than the job, however, I have reached the conclusion that my sincere message is not well received. Again, it’s simply possible that my delivery does not match what people are accustomed to or my message of concern for our future appears to fly in the face of many recent policy decisions.”
There’s an old and slightly crass saying about the kind of kind of party outsider Bill Barry is: you’d rather have him inside the tent, peeing out into the snow, than outside the tent, peeing in. Well, he’s outside now, and you can see which way the flow is going.
By quitting, Barry has put a stick in the Tory spokes just about as effectively as he possibly could.
With him leaving the leadership race, there isn’t even a race anymore.
It’s another Tory coronation, with a candidate who has said precious little beyond that he would continue the successful work the Tories were already doing.
The leadership race would have given Coleman the kind of publicity and profile he needs to explain what he stands for and what he plans to do, but instead of a campaign, there’s a flat tire.
And if you’re wondering just how far outside the tent Barry is, consider the closing words of his statement.
“I wish Frank and all party leaders well as you confront the road ahead. As usual, I will always have strong opinions — am available to share anytime. My views will hopefully stay non-political and be based on common sense and experience. The way I see it.”
The Tory insider machine has made a bad mistake.