on February 14, 2014
I did not order this book but would have because I do like Peter Newman. I was not invoiced for it nor did I receive it. Peter Newman is and excellent writer.
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2013
Peter Newman admitted it early, this was supposed to be a book about Ignatieff's rise to power; it was changed mid-stream as a result of the 2011 election. The result is a number of chapters with fascinating revelations about the inner workings of the Liberal party, particularly when pertaining to Ignatieff's recruitment, rise and defeat. However, there are also a number of chapters that come off as either out of place or shallow filler. The biographical elements delve too deep into Ignatieff's history and psyche. A biography of Prime Minister Ignatieff should probably include a discussion of his relationship with his father or a description of the family's summer home in France. An analysis of the decline of the Liberal Party, not so much.
I would definitely recommend this book to political junkies and anyone looking for a bit of insight into the Grits as they enter what may be their last leadership campaign. However, this is not the full and definitive account of the death (or near death) of Canada's natural governing party.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2012
For a book that claims to be about something as broad and epochal as "The Death of Liberal Canada", it has a frustratingly narrow focus. Newman had the idea for this book before the 2011 election when he started following Ignatieff and conducting interviews for a book to be titled The Making of a Prime Minister about the man's rise to power. It seems like when that didn't quite pan out he re-purposed that material, added some segments about the history of the Liberal Party and rushed out the present book.
To Newman's credit, the book does have some interesting things to say about the party, and the insider account of Ignatieff's recruitment and time as Liberal leader are valuable, but I can't help feeling like I've been deceived by the book's title and marketing. It's a biography of Ignatieff and chronicle of his role in the party's history more than anything else. If that's what you're looking for, you'll enjoy this book. If it's not, it may still be worth a read as long as you don't come into it with any false expectations.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2012
I must admit I was very disappointed by this uneven work.
Newman's writing remains crisp, the problem is his thought and his thesis about the Liberal Party of Canada are a mix of bang on or bozo.
At is core, I sense that Newman is writing this not as an actual practioner of Canadian politics, but as someone who reads a lot about it and talks a lot about it. And the difference shows in this work.
There is some original stuff in here, which is fantastic. But for the most part, I thought I was getting a regurgitated revision of what others like Paul Wells have already published.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2012
When the Gods changed by Peter C.Newman shade a new light on Canadian politics and the demises of the Liberal party.
It is a "must read" for those of us who are trying to grasp how the conservatives party has arrived to be a majority government and how the libs will have to rel=built themselves from here on for the future.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2011
Mr. Newman must have long term memory problems. People have been forecasting the demise of one political party or the other since Confederation...and they are still here. However Mr. Newman thinks he is the smartest man in Canada, because he has published so many books, so he must be. Consider though that most of the premises he wrote his books under were later proved wrong. Many of the Establishment have passed into history, many of the Acquisitors whom he fawned over have gone broke and passed in to history. Conrad Black did not become "King of Canada". Perhaps he (Newman) is like an economist, predicting often, denying wrong predictions and over promoting right ones. The Liberals will be back and after that the Tories will be back and the NDP will still be haunting the Commons too. Why pay good money for yet another pompous opinion piece!
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Two things to start with. This is probably four and a half-stars, but I went with four. In parts, and especially when referring to broader trends, I would have liked to have seen more factual evidence presented rather than people's comments and opinions. Second, in reviewing a book about a political party, I suppose I should note that I've voted Liberal, Conservative, NDP, and Green in past elections. I really vote for who I think is best at that moment (or where my vote is most likely to be effective). I'm a pragmatist rather than a liberal or conservative. That said, pragmatism usually leads towards the center, the natural domain of the Liberal party. Given the shocking fortunes of the Liberal party in the last election, I thought it would be interesting to read more about how and why those events happened.
Peter Newman is a journalist who has had one-on-one access with all the past prime ministers, except for perhaps Harper. So he chose to follow and interview Ignatieff, whom he believed would be the next prime minister. Clearly, that didn't pan out. This book is an explanation of why that's so. There are really three causes. The first is that Iggy never really caught on to how the game was played. A relative newcomer to politics, he acted more like an academic, seeking truth and dialogue rather than emotions and selling points. The people around him were unable to give him the right advice or help him follow it. That left him badly stunted and looking awkward on camera. Surprisingly, he came away as a man without big ideas, despite the fact that as a professor he had written about some pretty big ideas. Newman reports some of his interviews with Iggy, who indeed comes across as more profound and interesting than he did on the political stage. These are some of the better parts of the book.
The second reason for the Liberal's fate is that they were a party in decline. The arrogance of the Chretien years was matched by the lack of a credible opposition, which made the Liberals lazy and inefficient, if not contemptuous. That left them vulnerable, as did the Martin-Chretien infighting. My most shocking revelation from the book is that Chretien reportedly told Martin he'd stay on a few months longer to take the flack of the Adscam affair, and that the RCMP should handle it discretely rather than a public inquiry. Supposedly, Martin and his advisers said no to both. HUGE mistake. In any case, after Paul Martin, there really was no clear-cut candidate who stepped up to lead the party. Rock, McKenna, Tobin were all names that I remembered with some respect, but none of them stepped up. That led to Dion being nominated, largely because he was bland enough for no one to seriously dislike him. His failure led to Ignatieff and a party reportedly more concerned with saving their own jobs rather than the party.
The third reason given is Stephen Harper. I'm no fan of the man, but clearly he is a master political strategist. His only major blunder was trying to pull the funding of the parties while he led a minority. The resulting coalition against him almost cost him power as he was saved by the questionable action of the Governor General. Since then, he has been solid. Drab, boring and conservative, but solid. The Conservatives $10 million campaign slandering Ignatieff was a great success, leading many Canadians to believe Iggy was in it for himself. His ties to the US were a disadvantage, which is surprising given how similar Harper's policies were to G.W. Bush's and how cozy Harper likes to be to the US. One would think that a Harvard position is something to be proud of, but the Conservatives were deftly able to turn it into a negative. I suppose some credit should also go to Jack Layton, who's raw charisma allowed a third-rate NDP party (in terms of experience, money and organization) to vault handily over the Liberals.
So there you have it. The three main causes of the changing of the guard/gods. Newman states that he thinks this is the end of the Liberal party for good. We will now be heading down a two-party political road. I'm not so sure. The Conservatives were able to reinvent themselves after being gutted down to two seats. The Liberals came back from forty seats after losing to Diefenbaker. Whether they will be able to as the same party, or whether they will have to reinvent themselves remains to be seen. But I sincerely hope that a centrist party returns meaningfully to Canadian politics. Whether or not that's your thing, one can't argue with the notion that more choice is better in a democracy. As I stated up front, I have clearly taken advantage of that diversity to send different messages at different times. I would sure hate for my vote to end up being a yes/no, right/left only option. And that's perhaps the most important message of this book. Democracy is in some ways a fragile, but very human endeavor that relies a great deal on the quality of the people involved at both ends as leaders and voters. Regardless of who you vote for, I for one hope that the both the number and thoughtfulness of our choices and our voices improve in future elections.