COLUMN

Turn her loose: let Kim be Kim

Allan Fotheringham June 21 1993
COLUMN

Turn her loose: let Kim be Kim

Allan Fotheringham June 21 1993

Turn her loose: let Kim be Kim

COLUMN

ALLAN FOTHERINGHAM

The fractious Tories, famous for eating their young, are back to their Diefenbaker best. Their gathering in the old Ottawa ice rink, steamy as a sauna in June deodorant weather, takes them to an uneasy alliance in their upcoming meeting with the Grits at the ballot box as the leaves fall this autumn.

Queen Kim Campbell—Our Lady of the Helicopters as Mordecai Richler has dubbed her—is going to have mortal trouble drawing the party together. As a leader who clearly emulates Maggie Thatcher at her fishwifebest, she has some task before her.

As the sweat-stained multitudes waited in the weary Sunday hours to hear the inevitable second-ballot denouement to her ascension, the mellifluous Hughie Segal confided to insiders that he wasn’t about to travel the stump trail in an election on behalf of a woman who never knew what she was going to say when she opened her mouth.

Journalists, of course, are agog at the juicy spectacle about to be put before them, rather like a gourmand offered a feast only available to ancient Romans at a poolside orgy. Covering the first female prime minister in the country’s short history will be somewhat like tape-recording a combination of Bill Vander Zalm and Pierre Trudeau.

Jean Charest is a nice boy, but a safe boy. In his entire campaign, he made only one small mistake—his puzzling goof of speculating that he might not serve in a Campbell cabinet if he lost, a convoluted elocution that succeeded only in making him appear petulant, the least of his faults.

By contrast, following the golden girl with a tape recorder became like traversing Somali minefields without a road map. Her motor-driven tongue is liable, at any pit stop or babykissing occasion, to emit the stuff that makes headlines tomorrow morning. Peter C. Newman, with a bottle of good wine over a three-hour lunch, managed to almost unhorse a candidate who had, according to the God Gallup, wrapped up the crown months earlier. The party that was represented in the

Ottawa ice palace by delegates two-thirds male with an average annual income of $69,400 naturally would not embrace her history-making victory. After getting 48 per cent of the votes on the first ballot, she could move only 153 delegates—out of more than 1,800 who were against her—to her side on the winning ballot after the three minor candidates had abandoned the battlefield.

In other words, only about a third of dissidents who were worried about her supported her on her winning vote. Even though Jim Edwards, who did his John Wayne image throughout and then in sly Ottawa fashion went to what he thought would give him the highest cabinet post, hardly had half his delegates following him and casting their final votes with him.

A candidate who gets a cinch 48 per cent of the votes on the first ballot and then can gamer only 153 reluctant converts on the second at-

tempt—while almost twice that many are going to the boy scout Charest—is someone who is going to have some difficulty uniting the party.

The Tories, because the outgoing leader with his stratospheric ego has wiped out the advent of the newcomer, are already in a fix with the somnolent Liberals. One could imagine, even without much insight, the Grit strategists opening the bubbly as each smarmy minute passed in the Mulroney televised farewell tribute.

Is there a law that the CBC must gavel-togavel broadcast this tripe? Alan Thicke from downtown Kirkland Lake with his Edgar Guest imitation of fawning doggerel? The $300,000 production of old home movies on what Brian used to do on his summer holidays? If I were a Liberal pollster, I would have been not beaming but gleaming.

An old pro who has been around since Adam was a pup and was involved in convention arrangements allowed, shaking his grey head, that it was the first Conservative convention he had ever attended that had condom machines in the washroom. Even more important than that historic occasion is the fact that the party is split between those determined that it should not present before the electorate another prime minister from Quebec and those who are suspicious that they may be led by a space cadet whose ambitions exceed her common sense.

What was quite clear, in the space where the Zamboni usually takes the place of oratory about deficit reduction, is that the kid from § Sherbrooke is the more sta| ble, reliable item on the ^ grocery shelf. While the 2 other off-the-wall item had the heavy money and the Establishment backing and the handlers and spin-doctors who, in the final stages, had her reading trite prescriptions from texts that had been prepared by nasal technicians who embraced clichés like lovers.

Those of us who cherish chaos look forward to the days before Halloween, by which time the nation’s fate must be determined. Once in power in 24 Sussex Drive, she may—we hope—sack all the flacks and fixers and mind-surgeons who had turned her final, tremulous hours into such a bore.

Let us hope they let loose on us the True Kim, the one who used to commiserate in the B.C. legislature with the Opposition NDP members about “the scabs on your knuckles” and the fact that they hadn’t obviously read a bill because “after three pages your lips get tired.”

Let her loose, you dumbos! It worked for Trudeau. It’s your only hope that it might work for you.