Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Here are some excerpts from Keith Davey's 1986 political memoir, Rainmaker: A Passion for Politics. In case there's anyone who doesn't remember, Davey was a Liberal heavyweight: at various times party director, national campaign chairman, senator, strategist and advisor to prime ministers Pearson, Trudeau and Turner.

Some Secrets of His Success

When Davey met with his boss, he always made sure he brought a list of problems, at least half of which he had solutions for. When he attended a meeting, he brought agenda items that he was prepared to introduce and speak to.

On Party Renewal

A successive series of caretaking party administrations had gradually allowed the Liberal focus to shift away from the party and move in the direction of the Prime Minister's Office, the ministerial offices and the caucus. It was a subtle shift and the inevitable reality of a party so long in office. I, for one, had had a much easier time achieving things as party director because for much of that period we were the Opposition. - page 202 (talking about 1974)

Each new generation of Liberals seeks to alter that status quo with an enthusiasm which varies in direct ratio to the Gallup poll. In this regard, I well remember a Young Liberals Conference at Presqu'ile in 1957, not long after John Diefenbaker had defeated Louis St. Laurent. The talk was all about the "brass being out of touch with the grass," a theme which Mr. Pearson carried into his leadership campaign. A few years later when I became national director of the party and took as my watchwords, "communication and involvement," I simply represented that new generation of Liberals seeking to resolve identical problems. - page 283

On Elections

In the final analysis any campaign comes down to one major issue, whether it is personality or a policy (either a bread-and-butter issue or sometimes a placard or non-economic issue). Having determined the best issue, then that becomes the issue of the campaign. Polling is extremely useful in making this determination. ...The 1960 US election offers an early example of how and why polling works. The Democrats had to go to the seventh rated issue of concern to find the American people giving the Republican government a negative rating. That issue was the US image abroad and the Kennedys amplified it, bringing in such points of reference as Quemoy and Matsu - obscure Chinese islands unheard of before or since. - page 45

Our 1974 campaign strategy came easily. The facts were obvious. Not only was inflation the overwhelming number one issue of concern, nine out of ten Canadians thought the Liberal government was not handling it very well. However, when we compared the leadership characteristics of Pierre Trudeau with Bob Stanfield, it was an absolute rout for the prime minister. ...Our strategy was obvious. If people went in to vote thinking about prices, we had to lose; but if they were thinking about leadership, we had to win. Inflation was the problem and leadership was the issue. The Tories should have tried to make the opposite case, but instead of talking about the problem of inflation and making it their issue, they offered their solution. Any solution they offered would have been a critical strategic mistake... - page 177

I had come into politics for some very altruistic reasons, but mostly to try to help people help themselves. This would always mean broad social programs. ...In terms of practical politics, it is when the Liberal party shifts to the right that we lose elections. I have always believed that the Liberal party wins elections when we are most liberal. - page 38

An important campaign reality is not to play the Oppositions's game. Do not talk about their issues. If they say, for example, "You're fat," the response should not be, "I'm not." It should be, "You're bald." - page 339

[Re John Turner's election defeat] Essentially what had happened to the Liberal party was that after 25 successful years at centre-left, it had in only two months assumed a centre-right position. - page 346

The two most critical periods in a campaign are the first ten days and the last ten days. - page 196

On Leadership Races

Convention politics and election politics are very different games. At a leadership convention you lead to your weaknesses... To win a convention you need to satisfy the faithful about those weaknesses. - page 160

On Governing

Trudeau... endorsed as a solution [to inflation] some kind of temporary wage and price control - the very thing he had earlier rejected so strenuously. The prime minister did not blink, though he knew his critics would be out in force: a flip-flop at best, they would say, or at worst, downright deception. It was neither. Pierre Trudeau simply made a courageous decision, observing that only a fool would lock himself into any position forever. Situations change and so must solutions to problems. - page 201

Keith Davey's Ten Commandments of Canadian Liberalism (page 55)

1. Revere the leader.
2. Remember a leader is never cooked until people start to laugh at him.
3. Stay on the road to reform; keep left of centre.
4. Hang together.
5. Build a poll organization worthy of the name.
6. Lead to your strengths in campaigns; to your weakness in conventions.
7. Never negotiate through fear; never fear to negotiate.
8. Remember that in politics, perception is reality.
9. Recruit new, bright, young people.
10. Avoid public humour, but laugh a lot in private.


1 comment:

Social Lib said...

I just ordered this book from the Library. Looking forward to it!