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on January 3, 2012
After months of listening to political drivel in the U.S. campaign to nominate a candidate to oppose the president, surely any other system of choosing a national leader is preferable.

Nope. Newman details how Canadians are equally clever in using very different politics to produce a landslide defeat based on the hubris of past success and the blinders of current arrogance. He knows how to infuriate politicians; he quotes them accurately and in enough context that they can't weasel out of gaffes, goofs and "Golly Gees!" with claims of misquotes. It gives him two great advantages; honesty allows him candid access to all who matter, including politicians, and in return he presents a complete "warts and all" picture.

Trust me, I've been there. Political campaigns are intense; success requires an astute candidate plus a dedicated staff willing to literally work around the clock. As Newman says, Michael Ignatieff began with these strengths until his campaign was taken over by good ol' boys wanting to cash in on easy glory.

This book is a post-mortem, like an analysis of why the Titanic sank. As with the Titanic, lessons learned mean big ships are still built and sail safely; the lessons of this book may well become a foundation garment to rebuild the Liberal Party. As an original supporter of John Diefenbaker and Dr. P. B. Rynard, I don't want Liberals to disappear; because the lasting success of Conservatives depends on the intelligence of a good opposition.

Without a good opposition to debate their politics, plans, policies and peccadillos, Conservatives will become a Canadian G.O.P. (Greedy Old Party).

Conservatives skillfully used American campaign techniques in 2011, a system imported by Liberals in the 1962 election. It doesn't imply Canada should copy the American primary system; but it does suggest adopting new and more open methods of selecting candidates.

Newman skillfully cites the arrogance and incompetence of the Worthy Old Elder Statesmen (WOES). It's not unique to politics; the basic errors are much the same as the collapse of once great businesses such as Kodak -- the company that invented digital photography; or Research in Motion -- creator of the world's best business phone. Good companies re-organize and thrive; weak companies, and inept politicians, refuse to change and die.

This is a textbook on how to lose an election, destroy a great candidate and crush a venerable political party. It's essential political reading as an example of what not to do; plus, as a foundation to create reforms. After reading it, perhaps Liberals will organize a new "Kingston Conference" similar to the one held in the wake of the 1958 triumph by Diefenbaker.

Politics is a process of continual rebirth, simply because the interests, needs and whims of voters always change. Newman has written a fine obituary of old Liberals; now, party leaders must decide whether to die like Britain's Liberals or be reborn like Democrats after the 2004 election. President Bush bragged of mandates and holding power for at least a generation after 2004; Republicans were trounced in 2006 and 2008, then revived by 2010. Such is the volatile nature of politics.

Newman deftly outlines the Liberal WOES. Now, Young Liberals must reform or learn to graciously fade into history like a curious oddity from times long past.

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on June 17, 2013
This book was written two years ago in 2011, and its message deeply resonates louder today than even then. The core message of the book is straight-forward and simple: the Canadian Liberal Party is dead. The author, Peter C. Newman, has authored 26 books and hundreds of articles in his many journalistic roles as a writer, editor, and reporter. His writings on Canadian politics---this book included---are among his best.
Newman savagely denounces Michael Ignatieff suggesting that---as the leader of the Liberal Party---he was operating over his head ; the wrong person for the job ; suffered from a bad case of chronic Liberal arrogance; did not understand the party structure and culture; and was seen as an "outsider" in Canadian politics. Newman states clearly that the "operation to install...Ignatieff as leader was the beginning of the end for the Grits as a political force...". Ignatieff never did acknowledge his lack of political skills according to Newman. Newman cogently informs readers that the disappearance of the Liberal Party was, and is, "...self-inflicted..." and was assisted by the sudden and seeminly unexpected resignation of Paul Martin in 2006 ; the bad blood between Jean Chretien and Paul Martin; and that the Liberal Party had lost touch with its roots in the Canadian public.
Newman further argues that the Liberal demise was further augmented by an undue emphasis on political values rather than policies by Paul Martin ; the Adscam affair; the disasterous election of Stephane Dion as Party Leader ; and of course, Michael Ignatieff. According to Newman, Ignatieff "...inherited a politically diconnected and dissatisfied political movement..." when he was crowned the Liberal Party leader.
Newman carefully develops the argument that Ignatieff believed he was the "deliverer" within the Liberal Party ; he was the self-designated redeemer for the Party even though a powerful sense of frustration with him was building in the caucus and the Party well before the 2011 general election. Newman declairs that Stephen Harper has a brilliant mind and that his government will change Canada in ways not yet fully seen or imagined. Whether this prognostication becomes reality is yet to be seen.
While reading this book, a well-known children's song from many years ago---Down by The Station---danced in my head. In taking the liberty to move beyond the Newman book itself, which deals with the past federal Liberal Party, and migrate to the recent Liberal leadship race in Ontario, and the recent federal Liberal Party leadership race to replace interim leader Bob Rae, the image of pufferbellies emerged. Like the pufferbellies in the song, leadership hopefuls in both leadership races appeared in line, or lined-up, each hoping to repair and rebuild the severly damaged Liberal brand in both Ontario and federally. If Newman is correct in his Liberal Party extinction thesis, it is a sorrowful sight to witness people in termination line-ups.
Newman reasons that the Liberals---both federally and provincially---don't matter any more. As it is unclear what Liberal's represent and believe, voters are looking for alternatives. The disappearance of the Liberals both federally and provincially is continuing with little notice. The book is a must read for anyone interested in, and concerned about, the disappearance of what Newman calls "...the deconstruction of the Grits...unassailable fortress...". If Newman is correct, only time will tell who delivers the Liberal Party eulogy, and what the epitaph inscription reads on the Liberal Party gravestone.
David Heming
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