I've said for a while that I don't think we should be going to an election right now," said Larry Miller, the Tory MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, in a radio interview Saturday.
"Ultimately the choice will be out of our hands, but that's what the majority have said here and that's what I'll take back [to caucus]."
The interview, aired by CKNX-FM in Wingham, Ont., was immediately seized upon by the Liberals as fresh evidence that Tory Leader Stephen Harper is forcing an election that few Canadians want.
Asked whether the decision to oust the Liberals without delay could be reversed, British Columbia MP John Reynolds, the Tories' national campaign co-chair for the coming election, said "you can always change your mind in politics."
Tory deputy leader Peter MacKay struck a similarly ambiguous tone . "I wouldn't call it inevitable," he said yesterday. "I think that the leader will still want to hear from caucus and get a cross-section of feedback from right across the country."
There is an ingrained timidity within the party in the face of extreme media hostility, and it never fails to surface after the media joins the Liberals in launching a full frontal attack.
There has yet to be an adequate response to the "hidden agenda" canard, such as a Contract With America or Common Sense Revolution-style release and repitition of the key points of the party platform. Not even a dismissive one that could disarm the phrase by turning it into a joke.
The media has been telling people every day for the last few weeks that they don't want an election now, not in the fall, not next spring, perhaps never again. Since most people don't think about whether they want an election at any given time, they'll respond to what they think everyone else believes.
The party's response? Back down.
Backing down would only confirm the media myth that the Tories were intent on forcing an election but only held off because the people didn't want one. It would not be a principled decision to respect the people's wishes but another retreat in the face of a Liberal-inspired media campaign.
People may not want an election at this time. Who really does at any time, except active political partisans?
They will not respect the party for backing down from its stand, however. People do not respect the fearful. They would sooner forgive the Tories for forcing them to the polls than they would for flip-flopping.