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PC Backroom yet to decide Tory draft pick

This was a bad week for men at the top.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost their head coach. And the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party lost its leader.

Their misfortunes made great fodder for pundits, but has anyone noticed that both men were shown the door for the same reason?

Their teams wanted leaders with fire in their bellies. A fighting spirit. A passion that inspires the team into battle. What they got was cold porridge.

When the Blue Bombers lost 41-1 to the B.C. Lions, Jim Daley said: "We did not represent ourselves as coaches and players and our city and our province very well." Well... duh.

When John Loewen betrayed his Tory colleagues by joining the federal Liberals, Stuart Murray wished him well and (figuratively) passed around an envelope to buy him a nice going away present.

Now both men are watching the press debate their successors.

In the case of the Tories, reporters are just parroting each other without applying any thought or analysis. Allen Mills was only too right about the state of reporting on politics in Manitoba.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to winnow out most of the alleged contenders for Conservative Party leader.

1. Stuart Murray.
Give the guy a break. How much humiliation is he supposed to take? He's given his all for five years and he gets barely more than fifty percent support from party members. He know his time is up. In order to be a competitor for his own job he'd have to give a speech in the Legislature that was so spectacular it had NDP MLAs crossing the floor to join him. In football, that's called a Hail Mary pass. In politics, you may say a few Hail Mary's but you know you're finished when you're praying for miracles. Scratch Stuart Murray.

2. Jim Downey,
Former deputy premier, party stalwart, old warhorse. But his future is with his experience and his contacts in the back rooms. The Party is not going into an election with a leader who's collecting an old age pension. Scratch Jim Downey.

3. Brian Pallister.
He's a giant. Literally. A leader so tall commands attention whenever he rises to speak. But as a member of Parliament he's earning $144,000 a year plus perks and a nice pension when he leaves. Why leave the Opposition in Ottawa to sit in the Opposition in Manitoba for half the pay? Scratch Brian Pallister.

4.Mervin Tweed
We're sure he's a nice guy and hardworking. But he's also an MP (see No. 3) and with as much pizzaz as the fabric he's named after. Scratch Mervin Tweed.


5. Hugh McFadyen
Added to all lists for comic relief, surely. If the Party is looking for fighting spirit, the last place they'll find it is with Hurricane Hugh. He's never won a political contest. He says his priority today is winning the Fort Whyte byelection. Six months ago his priority was winning election in Winnipeg South against Liberal giant Reg Alcock.

But as soon as he realized he might lose, he cut and ran for a safer race. Conservatives went to the movies last weekend to see Chicken Little because they thought it was the Hugh McFadyen Story.

Hughie ran Belinda Stronach's leadership campaign in Manitoba in 2004 and he suffers from the same delusion that somebody with no experience can just walk in off the street and become party leader.

He has one fan, already, though. Free Press Columnist Gordon Sinclair like Hugh's spunk. He finds McFadyen a kindred spirit who shares his values.

When a liberal likes a conservative because he's just like the liberals, you might think this would be a warning signal.

Sinclair also liked John Loewen and wrote glowingly of him when Loewen turned Liberal and said he never really believed in the Conservatives. How funny would it be if the Tories picked Hugh McFadyen as their leader only to watch him join Belinda and Party Jumpin' John in the Liberal ranks. A real kneeslapper, we bet. Scratch the comic relief.

It's funny how the reporters go on and on about the men who have no chance, yet barely spare a paragraph for the women of the party who have more balls in a political fight than Baby Huey has ever shown. They stared down the Party establishment to push a vote on the leadership. They stood tall when Stuart Murray punished them by moving them to the back benches. And they marched back with heads held high to reclaim their seats after the vote. Even Heather Stefanson, who backed the losing horse, is a fearsome critic that has the NDP cringing whenever she stands up.

Still, the real answer as to who will be running for Stu Murray's job is that no one knows anything. The backroom hasn't picked a candidate yet. Remember it was the party establishment that annointed Murray five years ago when it looked like Darren Praznik would become leader.

This time, though, the backroom boys are facing a feisty caucus.

And they know the locker room has to approve the playbook.

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