Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A bold gamble by Ignatieff

This is from the Star.
So the kingmakers are having their way this time but adding a little pseudo democratic consultation to decorate the cake for the coronation. The Liberals have agreed to broaden consultation.

A bold gamble by Ignatieff
TheStar.com - Canada - A bold gamble by Ignatieff



The ascension of Ignatieff a long time in the making
December 09, 2008 Linda DiebelNational Affairs Writer
A select group of Toronto Liberals, among them the Rainmaker's son Ian Davey, agreed over a private Toronto dinner in the summer of 2004, Michael Ignatieff would be the best leader for the federal party.
Naturally, there were hurdles, but, barring Ignatieff's failed run for the leadership, they have been remarkably successful in their efforts.
Now, having chosen their moment to strike and on the brink of fulfilment, the best of them worry, too superstitious to predict victory and aware of the cost of their gamble.
Winning means they will be remembered for rescuing a party – a country, perhaps – with courage, timing and craftiness. Or, they could be destined for failure, victims of power lust who destroyed what they aspired to save.
Ignatieff, 61, has made his move, and it can't be taken back. Losing could make of him a post-regicide Macbeth, doomed by his own sprawling ambition and the "Fire burn and cauldron bubble" wooing of the weird sisters.
A master of backroom politics on Ignatieff's behalf seemed almost paranoid yesterday, on a day he might have been over the moon.
"Oh no, no, no, it's too soon to say anything. There are too many moving pieces right now," he said, off the record. "It's been close before and we've seen it fall apart."
For him, it's crucial the leadership changeover from St├ęphane Dion to Ignatieff be done with as "much unity as possible." Yes, Dominic LeBlanc's decision to drop out of the leadership race was an important piece, but still many more voices are calling for grassroots participation in the choice of leader than Ignatieff people would like.
They'd prefer to see the choice irrevocable by the end of the week. In their dream scenario, Bob Rae would have announced he, too, was dropping out, instead of continuing to carp about how it "would be in the interests of both Michael and me to have a democratic process that involves the grassroots membership of the party."
David Peterson, former Ontario Liberal premier and an Ignatieff booster, thinks Ignatieff won't fail.
"Michael has earned the right to be leader," said Peterson. "Michael did not choose this role. He's been asked by others. ... If anyone says he is trying to stage a coup, or be undemocratic, that person is not being measured and thoughtful."
He added: "Over the past few days, there's been a gelling of a lot of people's views that he has the stuff to be leader."
Still, the notion Ignatieff was a political concoction of Ontario elites – Davey, whose father, Keith, worked political magic for Pierre Trudeau; Alf Apps; Senator David Smith; et al. – doesn't appear without merit. These strategists rolled out a plan they could be teaching at the Royal Military College.
Make haste to Harvard, where Ignatieff was director of the Carr Centre for Human Rights, and interest the celebrated author, journalist and expatriate for more than 30 years, in the job of Liberal leader and (surely) prime minister. Check.
Make connections for him over power dinners in Canada and find the perfect speaking platform for his coming-out at the Liberal policy convention in spring 2005. Check.
Clinch the deal with Ignatieff, settle on the attractive Liberal riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore and ensure obstacles to his winning election in January 2006 are largely swept away. Check.
Support him in his insistence with new leader Dion he be appointed deputy leader, not policy director, then keep his leadership team intact, albeit with clanging indiscretion. Check.
By last Wednesday, when Dion appeared in the unfocused, unhip video, Ignatieff people had their moment.
From that night to late Sunday, Ignatieff's teams set out to phone Liberal MPs, party and riding executives, financial supporters and powerful Liberals.
Among the most important organizers were Davey, Apps, Ontario MP David McGuinty (brother of Premier Dalton McGuinty), Smith and Don Guy, head of the Toronto consulting/polling firm Pollara, and former chief of staff and campaign director for Premier McGuinty. Also valuable, especially in setting out the route through the party executive to the leadership, was Steve MacKinnon, former Liberal Party of Canada national director.
Ignatieff's wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, has always seemed his most important adviser since they met in Britain when she was head of BBC publicity for his book, Blood and Belonging.
By yesterday, Ignatieff was ready to send out email wishes.
"Over the past few days I have been honoured by the incredible surge of support from all parts of our party for my candidacy for the leadership," he wrote.
He paid homage to Dion – "debt of thanks," etc. – and said he would stand for the leadership. "Should I succeed in winning the support of the national executive of the party and our caucus as leader, I remain committed to having that leadership confirmed by our party at our upcoming convention in Vancouver, as our party's constitution requires."
Should he become leader, he added, he would "hope to immediately engage the grassroots."
The image, however, of Ignatieff as playdough in the hands of others is simplistic.
Political economist Stephen Clarkson said in a 2006 interview, "He told people 15 years ago that he thought about coming back to be prime minister."
There are signs he's been aware of a special destiny for a long time. The son of a Canadian diplomat, grandson of a Russian count and nephew of George Grant, famous writer of Lament for a Nation, he's now close to his brother, Andrew. However, Andrew recalled Ignatieff's reaction to his younger brother's 1962 arrival at UCC.
In Old Boys, James Fitzgerald quotes Andrew: "When we're at Aunt Helen's house or Aunt Charity's house, you can say whatever you want to me. But if you ever see me on the school grounds, you're not to talk to me. You're not to recognize that I'm your brother. You don't exist as far as I'm concerned. Do I make myself clear?"

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