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August 15, 2005
Harper Shakes Up The Office

Stephen Harper has apparently decided that the status quo has got to go -- along with a few members of his staff. The manager of his political office, chief of staff Phil Murphy, got his walking papers today:

Stephen Harper's chief of staff Phil Murphy has been given his walking papers, the latest in a series of aides to resign or be forced out of the troubled office of the Conservative party leader. ...

It was officially termed a resignation, but party insiders who spoke on condition of anonymity said Harper made it clear to Murphy that his time was up as right-hand man.

"He booted him," said one well-placed source. "And there are going to be more of these changes in the next little while."

The Canadian Press story analyzes that the departure of Murphy came for two main reasons: a failure to think strategically and personality conflicts within the party. The lack of strategic thinking made itself clear this past May, when the leading Liberals ran circles around the Tories despite the devastating revelations of the Gomery Inquiry. The latter reason might show itself less publicly, but the sudden and devastating defection of Belinda Stronach might also have something to do with Murphy's fall from grace.

Ultimately, though, the reasons for the shake-up would probably be analogous to any sports team that doesn't meet expectations. The coach gets pressured to perform, and he changes the staff around him to improve the performance. Harper has had trouble connecting with the Canadian people, and he needs to rethink his strategy for making himself and his platform resonate with the electorate. No politician does that all by himself, and Harper will need a staff with the appropriate strengths to assist him in succeeding. No staff however talented ever fully compensates for a mediocre politician either, despite the tired plot lines of Hollywood and the clichd fantasies of the American Left.

Whether the fault for his lack of progress on those goals lies with Harper himself or a staff that lacked the capacity to deliver, we shall see soon enough. If the fall comes and goes with the poll numbers remaining as static as they have through the spring and summer, even with the worst poltical corruption case hanging over the heads of Paul Martin and his Liberal cronies, then we will know that the Tory staff didn't hold Harper back. At that point, the Conservatives may need to regroup and talk about the future of the coach himself.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 15, 2005 9:12 PM

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