Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Hollow shell

A pretty devastating piece on the once big red machine. Persichilli calls the grits the picture of Dorian Gray.

Persichilli: Lost generation haunts Liberals

By Angelo Persichilli
Political Columnist
In 2003 I wrote that the federal Liberal party was like The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s novel that depicts the moral decadence of Victorian England. The protagonist, the handsome Gray, made an evil pact to preserve his magnificent body despite his depraved lifestyle, while his aging figure was decaying in a portrait hidden in his attic.

Between that fiction and reality, there is what I call “the lost generation of Liberal leadership,” and the next election will be when the Liberals have to deal with the fake reality and the decaying “picture” in their attic.

In the last few years, the Liberals have had four leaders: the shrewd Jean Chrétien, the flashy Paul Martin, the intellectual environmentalist Stéphane Dion and (repatriated from the U.S.) Michael Ignatieff, who was supposed to be the next Pierre Trudeau.

But while the faces changed, the structure, mentality and apparatus with its backroom boys remained the same. This dichotomy goes back a few decades, but two specific events accelerated the fragmentation of the Liberal party between the leadership, the MPs and the grassroots.

First, the feud to replace John Turner destroyed the concept of loyalty. Ever since, no Liberal leader has been allowed to leave on his own terms.

Second, the split that reduced the Conservatives to a “party of two” in 1993 meant the Liberals were almost automatically re-elected time and again, creating a mentality of entitlement — especially in Ontario. The everlasting presence of incumbent MPs created a bottleneck that shut out a new generation of candidates and political thinkers. The few MPs who left generally were replaced by parachuting in so-called star candidates and making a mockery of the democratic process.

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