Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Command and control by the Great Helmsman

John Ivison's article in today's National Post is a must read. Ivison discusses the current implosion going on within the Conservative Caucus.

I've cut and pasted some of his comments.  

"...Senior figures in the Conservative movement are warning that unless Stephen Harper moves his House Leader, Peter Van Loan, and the Government Whip, Gordon O’Connor, more MPs will follow the unlikely rebel, Brent Rathgeber, out of the caucus door.

The changes must be accompanied by reforms to the way the Prime Minister’s Office treats backbenchers, according to one former Cabinet minister. And the Prime Minister needs to draw into his inner circle people who are prepared to tell him things he may not want to hear.

...This is not a battle over ideology or policy. Rather, according to both current and former members of caucus, the backbench is a cauldron of seething resentment because of sheer, bloody mismanagement – “a growing, dictatorial ‘PMO knows best’ attitude.”

...But they [Private Member's Bills] have an importance beyond their success rate because they help push the public agenda – they sometimes find their way into subsequent government legislation; they can encourage government departments to adjust their behaviour; and, they offer the oxygen of publicity for interest groups.

As such they are guarded jealously by MPs. It is considered “unparliamentary” for the House, far less the MP’s own party to amend legislation without the approval of the sponsoring MP.

Members can be told before caucus that their party doesn’t support the proposed legislation and, if they persist, that the leadership will urge its backbenchers to vote against it. But a number of Conservative MPs say they are mortified at the unprecedented step of malleable Conservatives in the Ethics Committee amending Mr. Rathgeber’s bill against his wishes.

The finger of blame has been pointed squarely at Peter Van Loan, described by one Conservative as “the most reviled member of caucus.”. The finger of blame has been pointed squarely at Mr. O’Connor, a former brigadier-general used to his orders being obeyed without question, and Mr. Van Loan, described by one Conservative as “the most reviled member of caucus.” But they are merely the enablers of a command and control structure where the word is written by the Great Helmsman and interpreted by the cadre of youthful Blue Guards in his office.

For Conservatives who joined a party founded on “the supremacy of democratic parliamentary institutions,” recent developments have proven shocking.

...The caucus is not feeling the love from the Prime Minister, who now seems to believe a good number of his MPs are on his enemies list because they won’t give him their unconditional support in all circumstances.

...Mr. Harper doesn’t like being pushed into anything but such a course of action would send the message that if the party is going to go over the cliff, he intends to be in the driving seat, Thelma and Louise-style.

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