Michael Ignatieff called Stéphane Dion on Saturday after a newspaper article alleged his supporters were trying to weaken Mr. Dion's leadership of the national Liberal Party by interfering in a crucial Montreal by-election.I'm still not quite convinced that there wasn't a game being played. Certainly anybody shooting for the boss's job is going to insist that they aren't. Still, it seems like some good may come out of this; Dion has been shaken out of his complacency, and his critics no longer have impunity.
The deputy Liberal leader assured Mr. Dion that he was up to no funny business and offered his help in Monday's by-election in Outremont.
Mr. Dion, according to one of his senior aides, accepted what his deputy said. In an effort to underline that message, Mr. Dion's chief of staff, Andrew Bevan, asked Eleni Bakopanos, a key Dion strategist and former Montreal MP, to call Mr. Ignatieff and reassure him...
...The article had spread like wildfire through Liberal circles over the weekend. Although, the allegations have been denied by Ignatieff supporters, the damage was done. Volunteers were demoralized and one Liberal official said there was hostility toward Ignatieff supporters at the Outremont headquarters on Monday.
A Liberal MP from Toronto, who was heading to Montreal Sunday to help out, turned the car around at Port Hope, only 100 kilometres into the journey, after being e-mailed the newspaper article.
"I am so very tired of the Punic Wars of the last decade," said the MP, who supported Mr. Ignatieff in last year's leadership race, comparing the ancient wars between Rome and Carthage to the fighting between the Chrétienites and Martinites.
A Liberal who works on Parliament Hill said he arrived in Montreal to find chaos.
Even that "hostility" might actually have had a positive effect. While it wasn't helpful for that election, certainly, the party has had itself rather brutally reminded that it needs to hang together, that allegations will be responded to in kind, and that Dion is aware of the situation, the problems, and the need for solutions- as well as a little bit of realism and honest-to-goodness unity. (I liked that "Punic wars" comment from the Iggy backer, and I hope that sentiment will help keep things down to a dull roar.)
If the Liberals unite, and I mean REALLY unite behind Dion, I think the "leadership" problems won't be a real issue. The public will see it, and will respond. And if they start working on being a little less of a catchall party and start actually trying to act like, well, liberals, they might even develop a real base, too.
From what I can see, it'd be a nice change.