How, where and when I became a member of the Soviet intelligence service is a matter for myself and my comrades. I will only say that, when the proposition was made to me, I did not hesitate. One does not look twice at an offer of enrolment in an elite force.
– H.A.R. "Kim" Philby, My Silent War, 1968
Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads a political movement whose success relies heavily on the inattention of voters.
Indeed, the modern Conservative Party of Canada, like the U.S. Republican Party on which it is modelled, not only depends on the inevitable tendency of overworked voters in a neoliberal age toward inattention, but actively encourages it through a number of stratagems. These include rigorous secrecy, iron message control and repetition, and the suppression of public access to research and data.
So wouldn't it be a delicious irony if the defection to the Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau Monday of Conservative MP Eve Adams and her fiancé Dimitri Soudas, who by all accounts are not really very nice people, actually hurt the Conservatives because their supporters were not paying sufficient attention before the pair’s metaphorical shoes dropped.
It is said here that this is likely to happen and that the defection of Adams, who is known to have been in deep doo-doo with her former party as a result of the excesses of her nomination effort in the Oakville North-Burlington Riding west of Toronto last year, will turn out to be a public relations coup for the Liberals for the simple reason that, until yesterday, most voters were performing to specifications and paying no attention at all.
I listened to the Big Names of the national media expressing their shock and mild nausea at the spectacle of the nakedly self-serving Adams risibly claiming to have wanted only "to work with someone who inspires, not with fear-mongers and bullies." (The former, for those of you who are just starting to pay attention, would be the engaging Trudeau; the latter the unappealing Harper. The speaker: someone who famously yelled at a car wash owner over a $6 refund.)
But to ordinary voters in the 905 Belt of Ontario, who are the players who really count in this drama, the backstory is all just so much inside baseball.
Trust me when I tell you that when Harper's sinister spokesthingies attempt to adopt a reasonable tone to explain Adams was already being escorted off the premises by the bouncers, and for good reasons, the typical voter will conclude this is an entirely predictable smear, just the sort of lie unprincipled and cynical politicians would tell about a courageous young woman who had the fortitude to stand up to them.
Here again, the cynicism and distrust the Harper Conservatives have sown among electors as an effective voter-suppression technique has the potential to turn against them.
Not only will this hurt Harper and aid Trudeau in the vote-rich and undecided belt around Toronto, it will have the same effect everywhere else in the country. So you heard it here first, but future polling will demonstrate that most voters take Adams's explanation straight up and like what they're hearing.
Which is why, naturally, Trudeau -- who if nothing else is shrewdly advised -- sat there beside the former Parliamentary page with a smile on his face and a slightly horrified look in his eyes as he doubtless contemplated what will be necessary to make her behave until the final ballot has been counted.
It's not all about Eve, of course. The real prize is Soudas, once among the highest-ranking members of the PM’s Praetorian Guard, who by the sound of it agreed to come along for the sake of saving his beloved's bacon.
Soudas served as the executive director of Harper's Conservative Party, and thus was the man with his hands on the levers of the Conservatives' storied vote-manufacturing machine. At other times, the hairpluggy political operative was Harper's press secretary, his chief spokesperson and director of communications. Talk about an intelligence windfall!
This is like having a foreign power's spy chief defect to the other side -- or, perhaps, remain on the job as a double agent for a spell while reporting back to his service's erstwhile enemies.
Indeed, the question a lot of people must be asking themselves is: When did Soudas -- his head packed with the most useful details about the prime minister’s game plan, not to mention the state of the prime ministerial mind -- start to plot this defection? When Harper canned him for his role in his fiancée's nomination imbroglio? … Or before, when things started to turn south?
Will Soudas turn out to be the Canadian political version of Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby -- the high-ranking officer of the British intelligence service who, through much of the Cold War, silently served as an operative of the Soviet organs of state security? We can only wonder.
The decision of Soudas to come in from the cold and join the L-shaped party must have bent the denizens of the Langevin Block, the famous Boys in Short Pants who advise the prime minister, right out of shape. The lights will be burning there for a few nights, I expect, and possibly a few files as well.
Yes, Monday's developments are going to play perfectly well in Pickering and Peterborough, because up to now no one’s been paying attention -- just like the PM, abetted by players like Soudas, planned.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.