It's nice to have friends. They generally foster warm feelings of goodwill.
So when an email from "Friends of John Cummins" arrived Monday, it dampened some expectations that curious recent developments in the B.C. Conservative Party he leads would amount to much.
A few questions have arisen about his leadership lately. But now the Friends were rallying to his side. It looked like the issues were settled.
The Friends were announcing that John Cummins was endorsed by six party regional directors.
Just so there's no confusion, it identified them openly and included supportive quotes about what a great guy Cummins is.
"Under John's leadership, our party has climbed from two per cent of the vote in the 2009 election to about 20 per cent in current polls," explained Wayne Markland of Burnaby.
Brian Wilson of the North ShoreSunshine Coast region said: "John is a proven winner who has the ability to take our party to historic heights."
The news left the distinct impression that John Cummins is surrounded by a nurturing circle of admirers who not only support him, but are friendly enough to call him by his first name.
Still, the jaded skeptic in me had a few nagging doubts.
When directors of a political party announce they support their leader, that usually isn't considered worthy of a news release. It's normally considered to be a given.
Going public as supporters implies just the opposite - there are some people who aren't.
Also, "Friends of John Cummins" is one of the few phrases in the English language that produces next to nothing in the way of Google search results.
The group apparently didn't exist until Monday morning. And when colleague Rob Shaw called the gent listed as the contact for the group, he cheerfully volunteered that he was only asked the night previously to handle communications for the group.
Who asked him?
Well, that would be John Cummins. It takes a bit away from the spontaneity of the enterprise, when you have to help organize your own fan club.
Friends don't let friends form their own friends groups.
The other thing that raises a bit of unease about the "Friends of John Cummins" phenomenon is the numbers. Having six members of the board go public as friends is a pleasant enough experience for Cummins, as far as it goes.
But the Conservatives list 18 people on their board of directors. That raises the kind of philosophical question that wise editors grapple with over their afternoon brandies.
Is it news that one-third of Cummins' board is friends with him? Or is it news that two-thirds of them apparently aren't on his friends list?
Friends of John Cummins is supposed to be a support group, not a creator-of-gnawing-doubts group.
Ten riding presidents joined the fan club later in the day, so it's clear the impression of momentum is being built.
Fortunately, some of the questions will be answered Sept. 22 at the party's convention.
The special meeting Saturday in Victoria drew some attention, because it was the first party event since the uncertainties developed.
But it was a special purpose meeting devoted to one topic - cleaning up the constitution - and it went smoothly.
The only leadership issue was a peripheral one - whether to ratify the leadership every year or every two years.
They went with the biennial option, starting this year. Ballots were already in the mail to members beforehand.
They'll be mulling the following developments.
One director's concerns about Cummins - he wants the vote and he wants to vote out Cummins - have been leaked. Cummins responded with the memorable line to the effect that even Jesus Christ had his critics among the apostles.
Then the vice-president's sniping about Cummins' $4,000-a-month party salary was leaked, along with his support for a leadership vote.
Around the same time, minutes showing Cummins and his solo MLA John van Dongen are estranged were also leaked.
(There's clearly a whole lot of leaking going on.)
The members' verdict on all this will be delivered at the convention. It looks like Cummins needs all the friends he can get.
Just So You Know: Cummins might want to review the most recent B.C. experience with leadership problems, provided by the NDP. Their provincial council voted 84 per cent in support of Carole James in 2010, and two weeks later she was forced out by a caucus mutiny.
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