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Sunday, January 29, 2017

What's a Tory to do? The challenge of using a vote you don't think you should have.

I have four months to decide what to do with my vote for the next leader of the Conservative Party.

There are fourteen candidates to choose from at last count. Half of them I’d never heard of before they entered the race and I started getting emails from them. I won’t name them for fear of giving them undeserved publicity.

Those I had heard of, who held office when Stephen Harper was Prime Minister, would perhaps do, but their respective efforts to persuade me that she or he would be best, and sometimes that another would be poor, have not enlightened me.

You can see their calculated posturing, trying to distinguish themselves with new ideas, which Conservatives shouldn’t have, or claiming that they will return the Party to its old principles, which none should claim ownership of.

A consequence of the ridiculous year and a half campaign is that the best the Conservatives have to offer are spending their time mouthing evasive platitudes and fatuous hyperboles, checking themselves from speaking frankly for fear of losing votes, trying to distinguish themselves from each other across the country when they should be mounting a coherent opposition in Ottawa.

And preening themselves, claiming a special empathy with the voters, unique talents from their experience, and generally displaying a corrupting immodesty.

Several candidates seem to be staunch social conservatives, with whom I sympathise. But the idea that they can advance their cause by leading the Conservative Party without persuading the voters generally to see things as they do is stupid. And stupidity is a moral failing. And how staunch their social conservatism would prove when the next election loomed we cannot know. Stephen Harper was supposed to be a frightening social conservative and only lifted a finger to wag it at Tories concerned about abortion or gay marriage.

Then there is Kevin O’Leary. I never saw him in any of the hundreds of hours I spent in Conservative meetings or campaigns. All he brings to the contest is celebrity. Worse, celebrity bought with our tax dollars on the CBC. His only conservatism is the caricature conservatism of the brash entrepreneur. He may not be Donald Trump, as he insists, but the parallels are strong and his is noisome enough.

As with Trump in the States, the media have fallen for him. Before he announced he was running he had received more coverage than any of the other candidates and now that he is coverage has spiked. His impertinence in running shows him unfit.

Count me ‘Never O’Leary.’ If I can figure out a way to stop him I’ll use my vote that way.

But I don’t have a vote so much as a chance to express my preferences. On May 27 party members are to fill in a preferential ballot listing their preference from 1 to perhaps 13. I have written elsewhere on the irrationality of preferential voting. But the risk is that the ultimate winner may be the one who was many peoples’ sixth choice because they knew nothing against her or had heard of him. Without knowing how my fellow Conservatives may vote down to their sixth preference at least I can’t know how to deploy my preferences to assure O’Leary won’t win.

I was actually polled a couple of weeks ago, in a poll that offered only 8 choices and I chose 9, ‘Don’t know.’ But we really have no idea how the candidates are doing. So I could randomly pick several ‘anyone but O’Learys’ and find that had I put X 5th and Y 6th instead of the other way round I could have helped stop O’Leary.

All of which is to make the point that I shouldn’t have a vote at all. The Conservative MPs in Ottawa should choose their leader. They know the candidates. It is they the leader will lead. They will win or lose in 2019 on the choice.

Liberals may be pleased by the choice Liberal ‘supporters’ made in choosing Justin Trudeau in 2013. But very many Republicans are dismayed at the choice of Donald Trump as their candidate for President by a shambolic process and even Conservatives in Britain are dismayed at the choice and confirmation of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of their Labour Party by ‘grassroots’ there.

In Britain Conservative party members disastrously chose Ian Duncan Smith to lead their party in 2001. Two years later Conservative MPs were able to oust him. It took three months to choose him but he was replaced in a matter of days.

But whomever Conservatives choose on May 27 we’ll likely be stuck with. Even had the provisions of Michael Chong’s much touted ‘Reform Act’ saying MPs can trigger a review of their party’s leader been adopted by the Conservative caucus at the opening of Parliament, and I doubt and cannot find whether it was, the prospect of having to spend a year finding a new leader would make the new leader’s position impregnable.

And so Justin Trudeau’s position may be impregnable. Because the MPs we elect can’t choose the man or woman most likely to defeat him.