21 October 2009

Conservatives and the politics of division

In 1987, Preston Manning created the conservative Reform Party despite the fact a conservative party, one quite friendly to Manning's home province of Alberta, was riding high at the time. Manning, it seemed, rather than join that party and apply his energies to nudging it in the direction he thought it should go, opted for a party of his very own. As a result, he divided the conservative movement and consigned it to a decade in the political wilderness.

Now another group of Alberta conservatives, the Wildrose Alliance, is setting out to break up the Conservative Party of Alberta, one of the most successful political parties in the history of the country. This makes even less sense than Manning's shenanigans since the leader of the Alliance, Danielle Smith, claims she wants to create a "big tent" party, which is just what the Alberta Conservatives claim to be and given their success, obviously are. One wonders how she is going to create this "big tent" in the future if the Alliance can't sit down with its Conservative brothers and sisters now. No matter, Smith, like Manning before her, must have a party of her own.

The irony of Manning's political adventure, of course, was that his new party eventually made up with the old Conservatives anyway. His entire effort was ultimately pointless. The current pursuit of ideological purity, or whatever it is, by the true believers of the Wildrose Alliance will probably follow the same path. They will not so much create a big tent as wander back into the one that's already there.

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