Monday, October 13, 2008

Will McMartin and the Curse of Judy Higginbotham

My old friend and former colleague at the late and lamented CBC Radio Early Edition political panel of old - the irreplaceable Will McMartin - has inked another of his fine tomes for the good folks at The Tyee.

I wouldn't ordinarily give McMartin a plug and his story headline makes it sound like a bloody Nancy Drew Mystery but hey - the old Socred warhorse mentioned my name in it, so what the hell!

Here's the first part - whether you are brave enough to read the rest is up to you!.......

In which McMartin braves his editor's wrath to float a humble election theory.

Published: October 14, 2008

It was a couple Monday mornings ago. I'd arrived at work early and found the complex of Tyee offices still dark and empty.

But the official list of 2008 federal general-election candidates was being released that morning by Elections Canada, and I wanted to look at it as soon as I could.

I'm a pundit. It's my job. It's what I do.

After making my way to the basement, going past the janitorial supplies and piles of old desktop computers, keyboards and monitors, I finally got to my office next to the boiler room.

For some reason, I was the only Tyee writer who didn't have a desk in the expansive newsroom with its vaulted ceilings and massive picture windows.

There were rumours that my banishment stemmed from an ill-considered skinny-dipping incident at a company picnic several years ago, but no one in management had ever spoken about it to me.

I made a pot of coffee, fired up my old computer and, sitting down at my battered metal desk, started going through the candidates' names, riding by riding. Suddenly, about two-thirds of the way down the list of B.C. hopefuls, I suddenly stopped, bolted forward and stared hard at the screen.

My mouth dropped. Whaaaaa? Holy cow! This was unbelievable. How on earth did this happen?

A single name leapt off the computer screen. It was a handle so well-known among B.C. political junkies, so legendary and so renowned for its electoral record that I slumped back in my chair, thunderstruck, nearly immobile.

Finally, after what in hindsight seems to have been an eternity, I roused myself and leaned over to open the bottom drawer in my desk. I found the bottle of scotch hidden at the back and poured a finger or two into my coffee.

I know, I know: The Tyee has a strict policy forbidding the consumption of alcohol before noon, but this was serious; I needed a bracer, badly.

I finally roused myself after taking a couple of gulps of my coffee-scotch concoction and managed to type a short e-mail for The Tyee's executive offices: "The election is over. Stephane Dion and the Liberals are doomed."

I hit the Send button and then, grasping the coffee cup with both hands and taking long, slow sips, stared out the window and contemplated the vagaries of B.C. politics.

Tieleman on the air

Over the next few hours, I checked the web for news stories, placed phone calls to operatives in various campaigns, and made a few notes for upcoming columns.

It was almost 10 a.m., time to turn on the radio and listen to the Monday morning pundits, Tieleman and the other guy.

Sheesh. Bill Tieleman was a unrepentant, card-carrying lefty pinko, but he'd been around the political block a time or three, devising and implementing campaign strategies for a couple of decades at least.

He'd won some, he'd lost some, but he knew what he was talking about. Having been there and done that, he knew spin from spam. But the other guy?

A retired factotum, a put-to-pasture bureaucrat whose election experience was zilch or close to it, had he ever even put up lawn signs? A political strategist? It was like a guy who, because he once had a friend who collected baseball cards, claimed to know how to hit an off-speed, two-finger splitter.

How Tieleman managed to put up with it, week after week, was beyond me...

Rule by terror

Suddenly a shadow appeared on the far wall of my office. I whipped my feet off the desk and spun around to face the hulking monster standing menacingly in the doorway.

One look at his scowling face and I quickly cast my eyes downward to the floor so as to avoid eye contact.

It was David Beers, The Tyee's editor-in-chief.....

Continued at: The Tyee

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