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Bill Kelly: In politics, it’s first place or no place

Rempel Garner reacts to use of party funds for Scheer children
WATCH: Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner says Andrew Scheer's resignation as party leader came as a surprise.

Although a handful of Andrew Scheer loyalists pretended otherwise, there was a sense of inevitability about his sudden departure as leader of the Conservative Party.

The sting of Scheer’s defeat last October was magnified by high expectations.

READ MORE: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer resigns, vows to stay on until new leader chosen

Every candidate thinks they’re going to win, but in Scheer’s case, amid the swirling controversies surrounding Justin Trudeau’s government, there was not just hope but an expectation that Scheer would supplant Trudeau as prime minister.

With expectations so high among Conservative supporters and the party hierarchy, the failure of the Conservatives to grab the reins of power on election night sent party members looking for reasons to explain the unexpected defeat — in other words, something or someone to blame.

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It was at that point that Scheer became a political dead man walking within his own party.

Unpacking the politics: will Andrew Scheer be able to stay on as interim Conservative leader?
Unpacking the politics: will Andrew Scheer be able to stay on as interim Conservative leader?

The same thing happened to the NDP’s Tom Mulcair in the 2015 election.

Canadian voters had grown tired of the Harper government. Few, if any, pundits gave the third-place Liberals with a rookie leader much of a chance to win, so it seemed that Opposition leader Mulcair was poised to become the first NDP prime minister in Canadian history.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the polls.

The surging Liberals formed a majority government, and Mulcair and the NDP were left wondering what could have been.

It wasn’t too long after that disappointing result that the NDP sprung the trap door on their leader.

READ MORE: Top Tory fired after approving use of party funds for Scheer children private school

There were a few faint cries from the Conservative caucus to give Scheer another chance, but politics is not like a friendly weekend golf game where mulligans and gimmes are allowed: it’s a vicious blood sport, and when your political detractors smell blood, the attacks can be relentless and fatal to your political career.

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Scheer’s demise underscores a harsh reality; in politics, there are only two places — first place and no place.

Increasing your percentage of the popular vote or gaining a few more seats for your party are consolation prizes at best. They’re meaningless if you don’t win the grand prize.

It may be cold comfort for Scheer to realize he’s not the first politician to come face to face with that jarring reality, and he most certainly will not be the last.

Bill Kelly is the host of the Bill Kelly Show on Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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