Monday, April 18, 2011

Allan Blakeney, R.I.P.; Dix Ex Machina

I remember the first thing that my mother said when I told her that I had won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford back in the mid-1980s. "Allan Blakeney was one of those."  She was proud that her son  had graduated into an elite circle of scholars and  citizens that Blakeney  had typified.  I always had liked him-- as a thoughtful, substantial person who was never more of a politician than he needed to be. My biggest regret for British Columbia is that it never had its  own Allan Blakeney as premier.
For me, the coincidence of Blakeney's passing with Adrian Dix's ascension to the B.C. NDP leadership is highly symbolic.    I knew from the moment that  (NDP Caucus Chair) Jenny Kwan announced the need for a new leader late nlast year that Dix would win.. The absence of anyone with the stature of  an Allan Blakeney in the NDP leadership race was one of the factors that ensured his victory.

THese events constitute another missed opportunity for British Columbia.   W.A.C. Bennett's early election call in 1969 pre-empted Tom Berger's bid to be premier back in 1969; in 1984 it was the NDP's own fault when it failed to choose David Vickers over Bob Skelly.

Still, Dix has evolved as a person and is fairly bright and articulate.  He might even speak French well enough to play a constructive cameo role in the next installment of the National unity debate. Like Gordon Campbell, he will have the benefit of a very long learning curve and could  surprise his critics. 

But there is good reason to be skeptical.  B.C. needs to pick up where Mike Harcourt left off, and to accomplish what he couldn't; not to pick up where Glen Clark left off and accomplish what he couldn't. Dix's  success is built upon a political operative's lifelong and well-honed instincts for information control and spin, as well as the careful cultivation of  allies and economic interests, especially those of the trade unions that had benefitted from Glen Clark's policies. A Dix government could not help but be highly disicplined and centralized, subordinating policy to communications and skewing economic logic whenever it conflicts with the logic of interest group politics.

Could Adrian Dix morph into another Allan Blakeney, a provincial statesman? Equally strange things have happened, but I doubt it.  To repeat:  Blakeney was a thoughtful, substantial person who was never more of a politician than he needed to be.  Adrian Dix, like Christy Clark, represents the complete triumph of politics--overdetermination and overkill. No one could be more of a politician than either of them.

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