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Mike Duffy is not the first person to change overnight from ally to enemy, as Stephen Harper calculates his political interests. The difference is, Mr. Duffy is fighting back.
The senator, through his lawyer, is answering accusations with accusations in the Senate expenses scandal, in protest against the Conservative government's efforts to suspend him and two other former Conservative senators for alleged "gross negligence" in managing their expenses.
The handling of this affair reminds us that, when it comes to political calculation, Stephen Harper operates according to his own best interests and those of his party. Personal bonds mean little.
As a Progressive Conservative MP, Jim Hawkes introduced Stephen Harper to organized politics, mentoring the young acolyte as he climbed the rungs of his Calgary riding association, even taking him to Ottawa as his assistant.
But Mr. Harper eventually turned against the Progressive Conservatives over the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, among other things, and embraced the new Reform Party. Mr. Harper ran against Mr. Hawkes, defeating him in the 1993 election. All things considered, Mr. Hawkes took it remarkably well.
Over the next decade, Mr. Harper co-wrote a number of articles with University of Calgary professor Tom Flanagan, who became a close political confident, managing Mr. Harper's run for the Canadian Alliance and then Conservative Party leadership and for the party's 2004 election campaign.
But the relationship cooled after Mr. Flanagan wrote a political memoir that the Tory inner circle considered indiscreet. When Mr. Flanagan made remarks that appeared to tolerate the viewing of child pornography, the Prime Minister's Office excoriated him for holding such views.
Mr. Flanagan insisted he was simply offering a libertarian defence of individual freedoms, but no one was listening, least of all Mr. Harper.
Helena Guergis was a minister of the Crown one day, a pariah the next, expelled from cabinet and caucus over what turned out to be mostly trumped-up charges.
When the news broke of Nigel Wright's $90,000 cheque to cover Mr. Duffy's expenses, Mr. Wright went from being the most valued chief of staff Stephen Harper had ever had to the guy who took the fall. And as the Senate scandal continues to fester, the Conservatives have taken the extraordinary (and possibly illegal) step of publicly humiliating Mr. Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau by moving to suspend them without pay.
Whatever Mr. Harper's other qualities, steadfast loyalty isn't one of them.
The opposition parties are ramping up the "what did the Prime Minister know and when did he know it" narrative in Question Period. Mr. Harper continues to insist that he knew nothing about the deal with Mr. Duffy until he heard about it on the news. A categorical statement by a prime minister or premier –any prime minister or premier – delivered on the floor of a legislature must be accepted at true, unless and until there is compelling evidence that the first minister lied.
But it's not just the opposition Mr. Harper has to worry about. Whether it's because of their background in journalism or for some other reason, Mr. Duffy and Ms. Wallin are fighting back. Mr. Harper's former allies are every bit as angry at the Prime Minister as he is at them. They will not go gently. They intend to rage.
John Ibbitson is the chief political writer in the Ottawa bureau.