This one is not only a reason why we lost. It is a reason why we have lost before. And if we don't fix this, it'll keep happening.
Few people outside the Conservative family understand just how brutal the Red Tory-Blue Tory debate is. Whether we're in or out of government, the debate never stops. Everything- even the name "Progressive Conservative" and what that's supposed to mean - is a flashpoint.
Some people say that this is a good thing, in that it defines us from the Liberals. I beg to differ. The Liberals, as I've pointed out, care about exactly one thing, and that is social progress. Everything you see as being wrong with Ontario is something they see as being just another bump on the road as we move forward together. So, us investing countless hours fighting with each other over What Our Party Stands For may feel good, but it does nothing to help us defeat the Liberals.
HQ has to moderate between these warring factions and try to not get drawn in themselves, though they may wish to. These are the same people we rely upon to create the strategy that will win elections. They bear responsibility for the loss- that much is obvious- but maybe if they didn't have to deal with metric tons of emails and phone calls complaining about how our stance on the HST wasn't exactly what it should be, maybe they could have made a little more progress.
At times, this nonsense debate can divide our party for months. Think about the whole Carleton Mississippi Mills fiasco. The results are, as I maintained earlier in the year, meaningless. An MPP who thought he could barely represent his riding and still stay elected was challenged and lost. We are conservatives and we expect that sitting members should not be given a free ride. Even with the Liberal cheering section watching every move, it should have been a day at the office for our party. Instead, it mushroomed into a massive dirt-kicking match that had to be moved to Ottawa proper because they couldn't hold all the people who wanted to make their voice heard.
Now, I wonder: Just how many of the people who turned out for this demolition derby actually volunteered during the election? Is it possible that most of the people who self identify as Conservatives in this province are more interested in fighting the other side than they are fighting the Liberals?
At some point, both the Red Tories and the Blue Tories, Progressive Conservatives and Principled Conservatives, are going to have to understand that we can either focus on winning, or we can focus on trying to show everyone how Progressive/Principled we all are.
Meanwhile, the Liberals are having a ball watching us beat each other up. There came a point near the end of the election where the Liberal spin was both "Lowell Green is giving a What Went Wrong speech" and "John Tory is mad about for the sex-ed flyers" at the same time. The Liberals know both sides are one perceived slight away from walking away from the table, folks. They don't care if they have to speak out of both sides of their mouth on this.
I guess I can't stop people from making themselves unwitting tools of the Liberals, because they'd rather be right than have to put their own feelings aside. I can point out, as I've done innumerable times already, that people seem to have an easier time putting those feelings aside when it comes to Harper and Ford, because both of them are already in government.
And how, you may ask, did Harper and Ford get into government despite having to deal with the same problem? By enforcing the cone of silence. By telling both sides that if they can't settle this debate like grown-ups, that they are persona non grata within the party. By making those who would otherwise criticize them for being unprincipled afraid to speak out.
Hudak must learn the lesson that he cannot count on the conservative infrastructure to support him unless he makes it clear that he's in charge. It will be difficult for him to do this, being a low-key, nonconfrontational person by nature, so if he cannot do it himself the way Harper can then he must have people in his inner circle who can do it.
But right now, it isn't being done. A Sun News endorsement should be a no-brainer given a choice between McGuinty and Hudak. Candidates should not be going rogue or speaking off message, EVER. And anyone who attacks the leader personally, regardless of the election result, should not expect to have their ideas listened to.