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An exercise in Hugh-miliation

It's a good thing that the P.C. Party colour is blue, for it captures their after-vote blues so well, but yesterday you would be forgiven for thinking their colour was red.

That way the red-faces on the shamed Tory caucus and the red eyes and noses on weepy party supporters didn't look entirely out of place on election night.

There's no other way to say it. It was a rout.

Hugh McFadyen proved an unmitigated disaster as the new leader of the Progressive Conservatives. He accomplished what most pundits thought was impossible---he left the party with even fewer seats than Stu Murray.

Well, so much for McFadyen's grand vision of turning the Tories into NDP-lite. Or was it Liberals over-easy? That tsunami of federal Liberal voters he promised to deliver was nowhere to be seen even as the Devil danced away with the soul of the venerable party.

McFadyen's self-professed acumen as a political paragon now shares a shelf on the trashheap of history next to General George Custer's bravado at the Little Big Horn.

But before any further examination of the dismal prospects for the P.C.'s under McFadyen, we have to mention that strange exchange between party leaders which went unnoticed, or at least passed without comment by the reporters from the MSM.

It was an unprecedented gutter fight in full view of the cameras, though veiled in such genteel pretense that it slipped past everyone, except the initiated.

In his concession speech, McFadyen suddenly began extolling the support he received from his family throughout the campaign. He praised his wife by name, and gave her a big smooch. And he repeated how important it had been to have her steadfastly by his side.

A touching moment, surely. And pointed, like the tip of a stiletto. His target didn't fail to feel the sting.

Re-elected premier Gary Doer responded in his victory speech, a speech so loaded with cheap and unnecessary shots at the Opposition as to sour any listener expecting a winner to take the high road. At the end, Doer, too, spoke of the importance of having the support of his family.

Except he failed to name what's-her-face, his wife, who stood at a respectful distance and smiled and nodded on cue. Just like Sam Katz's wife on his election night.

And the Mrs.--Ginny Devine, to the initiated---got no kiss.

For, say those in a position to know, a sad announcement is coming sooner rather than later, now that the election is over.

Doer did, however, express his desire --- for a cold beer. Once. Twice. Well, we stopped counting at three.

Strange indeed that the loser mentioned the First Lady by name off the top, while her husband focued on his future with his preferred cold beverage.

Meanwhile, the braintrust at 23 Kennedy is facing an uncomfortable future explaining to the died-in-the-wool Tory core why they thought a campaign designed to ignore long-simmering public outrage about NDP scandals, broken promises and outright incompetence was a winning formula.

The caucus is left to wonder what issues they can possibly raise in Question Period (besides the Grace Hospital crisis) that will put heat on the NDP.

They are also left to wonder how they can even pretend to trust their leader's judgement on what matters to the public, when he made crime the main issue but failed to engage the very ridings most affected. Candidate selection was left to the last minute in several inner-city ridings and they didn't open offices until halfway through the election campaign.

Who is responsible for this lack of preparation?

At the top of the list is Hugh McFadyen, who convinced the party that he had the backroom smarts and moxie on the hustings that Stu Murray lacked. Instead he became an anchor around the necks of Tory candidates young and old. Just ask Bonnie Mitchelson.

The story of Hugh McFadyen's career as party leader begins and ends in Southdale, where the NDP started their election campaign by immediately putting him on the defensive, from which he and the career of longtime stalwart MLA Jack Reimer never recovered.

Brandon heavyweight Rick Borotsik barely squeeked into a seat in spite of Hurricane Hugh's visits to the Wheat City, each of which dragged the popular former Mayor deeper under the waves. Just ask Mike Waddell.

And if the shattered caucus needed any further proof of the drag of McFadyen's personal popularity, they need only look to the PC's New Generation star candidate in Kirkfield Park (Stu Murray's old riding), where Chris Kozier failed to win a single poll.

Hugh McFadyen was elected party leader a year ago to breath fire into a party demoralized by the leadership of meek, mild mannered Stu Murray, who couldn't rouse himself to utter a harsh word against turncoats like John Loewen, backed down to Crocus bullies, and was thought to have taken the party to the lowest depths possible with the Manitoba electorate.

Until Hurricane Hugh showed what he could do.

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