Recent travels have prevented me from blogging during the past few days, so forgive me for being late to the party.
Pat O'Brien's defection from the Liberal caucus was not a surprise. Nor is it entirely surprising that it has not received the same media attention that Belinda Stronach's defection. Mr. O'Brien, after all, was a relatively obscure backbench MP who only came into public prominence because of his vocal opposition to same-sex marriage legislation.
Nor could he expect sympathy from the media for having abandoned their party on the most crucial issue of the day to the Toronto media elites.
What is surprising, however, is that enough MP's in the Liberal caucus were willing to consider voting against their own government on a non-confidence motion in a last-ditch bid to derail the SSM bill.
The Liberals have owed much of their success to their unbreakable caucus solidarity in the face of adversity. Defections on a non-confidence issue should have been unthinkable. That Paul Martin and Irwin Cotler had to address this issue indicates just how poorly Mr. Martin manages his caucus and how unable he is to take a stand on principle (assuming, of course, that he even believes SSM to be a matter of principle).
He may well end up gutting the bill beyond all recognition, with so many amendments and exemptions to appease the anti-SSM faction in his caucus, that he will alienate the hard-left pro-SSM faction in turn.
Perhaps he hopes that the courts in the remaining jurisdictions will legalize SSM and let him claim that the matter is now forever out of Parliament's hands. The Supreme Court didn't oblige him, but the lower courts will.
And so he will have dithered his way into confirming judicial supremacy.
Turning to the Gurmant Grewal scandal:
The Tories have lost control of the issue, not so much because of Gurmant Grewal's antics, but because of the incompetence of his communications team.
The only reason that doubt has been cast on the authenticity of the tapes is because of the opinions of two self-styled experts of dubious credentials being given undue credence by the Globe and CBC. The blogosphere exposed these two "experts" as neither having any particular expertise in audio forensics not with having worked with the original tapes, which remain in the RCMP's possession. The communications team should have exposed these poseurs and given the media hell about it.
Global and the National Post could have been out there slamming the deceitful performance of their competitors, if Geoff Norquay and company had thought to work their connections there.
Harper has got to fire the lot of them and get people in there who know the modern journalism school-produced media mentality.
That said, Harper is at part to blame for not taking a consistent stand with Grewal. If he thought that Grewal was running a genuine sting operation, he should have been backing his actions right from the beginning, thus heading off any questions of his actions (and perhaps preventing the "doctored tapes" meme from ever spreading).
If not, he should have denounced him, turfed him from caucus and made it clear that Conservatives do not play the same corrupt game that the Liberals do. He could have built up an even higher moral ground on the corruption issue.
Instead, he appears to be controlled by events instead of controlling them. Whether because of bad advice or bad judgment, it does not make him look like a strong leader.
Nonetheless, we must remain united behind his leadership. He has done far more in 18 months to rebuild one conservative alternative than was thought possible during our decade in the wilderness. The two-party system has been restored, however imperfectly.
To mutiny every time the ship hits rough seas will not bring us to safe harbour, nor will it encourage anyone to become captain.
If we change leaders now, the media will attack the new leader's perceived weaknesses and ignore his perceived strengths regardless.
There will be an election in the fall. Save our strength for that.