Much to the aggravation of Stephen Harper, Brian Mulroney won’t go away.
Mulroney and friends are planning a huge party in Montreal in September to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their historic electoral triumph of 1984. That was the year the Progressive Conservatives won a record 211 seats.
Mulroney supporters were floating the idea of the big fete in the spring. It rankled Harper. He, we recall, had tried to make BM persona non grata in Conservative circles owing to the controversy with Karlheinz Schreiber, which was recently detailed at the Oliphant inquiry.
Harperites were hoping the rough ride Mulroney got in those hearings would nix the notion of holding an event in his honour.
Not so. Not only will it go ahead, it will be one of the biggest bashes the party has held. An estimated 700 will attend. Big-time Tories will be out in full force.
The broadway production will likely be interpreted as Mulroney hoisting his middle finger at Harper, demonstrating that he is still a force to be reckoned with, that it was a big mistake to try to ostracize him. In highlighting 1984, he will be reminding the PM of what constitutes a real electoral triumph. As in, “Your puny minorities hardly stack up to what we did, Stevo.”
The mid-September bash will come right when the next election could be triggered, right when party unity is most important. The Harper team upped the ante in the Mulroney dispute a while back when it put out the word that he was no longer even a member of the party.
It was a typical Harper tactic, the likes of which we just saw at the G8 summit when he had to backtrack for making false accusations against Michael Ignatieff.
Given the Schreiber affair, it’s been understandable that the PM has wanted to keep Mulroney at a distance. But to go to such an extent was uncalled for. Now he faces the likelihood that the anniversary gala will evolve into a disruptive party loyalty test.
With a show of generosity, Harper could avoid the trouble. All he has to do is support the event — put out a statement saying that Mulroney made a serious error of judgment in respect to Schreiber, that he has apologized for it, but in no way should it take away from his great triumph in 1984. “Let’s all celebrate it.”
He could take that constructive course, but it’s doubtful. As has been often demonstrated, the guy has a vampire’s need to draw blood.