Mr. Harper has a style, and he's sticking to it - the most controlling, stifling, rigid style of any prime minister in memory. He's got a formula, and he's also sticking to it - short speeches, no spontaneity, tight scripts, rehearsed political choreography, utter discipline within the ranks, media kept at a distance. It's all about Him.
But at least by degree, and arguably by much more than by degree, this is the most centralized, controlling, scripted government Canadians have seen in their lifetimes.
Torture in the Harper government must be the life of a backbencher. Remember when the Conservatives, and Reformers and Canadian Alliance before them, used to taunt Liberal backbenchers for being "yes men" and "trained seals"? Today, the Conservative backbenchers have been rendered utterly mute, except as political chorus boys and girls.
Only slightly less frustrating must be the life of ministers, except they get cars and higher salaries. Absolutely nothing goes on of importance in this government without the Prime Minister authorizing it. Ministers have absolutely zero leeway. Their staffs live in dread of the Prime Minister's Office, lest some little slip divert attention from The Message.
Months ago, I quoted a Conservative source, who said that Stephen Harper's political mentor was Joseph Stalin. Harper was fascinated with the Russian dictator, had read all the historical literature. Quite a unique circumstance to have the leader of a democratic nation, who rose to power through a supposed egalitarian movement, seemingly curious about a ruthless dictator.
In absolute terms, the comparison is pure folly, for obvious reasons. However, when you read pieces like Simpson's, as well as your own observations on style, you see a picture that does lend itself to the notion of a authoritarion, egocentric, decidedly paranoid rule. Surrogates are off balance, fearful of the hierarchy, told what to say, verbatum. Ministers are mere puppets, getting clear directives from a central source. Harper's shadow dominates every announcement, policy and directive. No sense of free exchange with the media, carefully crafted propaganda. Prime Minister or Only Minister?