The image of the scrum – a beleaguered politican surrounded by jockeying reporters – is central to our perception of Ottawa. The modern scrum began with the arrival of television, but even in Sir John A. Macdonald’s day, a century earlier, reporters in the parliamentary press gallery had waited outside the prime minister’s office, pen in hand, hoping for a quote for the next edition.
The scrum represents the test of wills, the contest of wits, and the battle for control that have characterized the relationship between Canadian prime ministers and journalists for more than 125 years. Scrum Wars chronicles this relationship. It is an anecdotal as well as analytical account, showing how earlier prime ministers like Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier were able to exercise control over what was written about their administrators, while more recent leaders like John Diefenbaker, Joe Clark, John Turner, and Brian Mulroney often found themselves at the mercy of intense media scrutiny and comment.
Allan Levine received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Toronto in 1985. He is the author of The Exchange: 100 Years of Trading Grain in Winnipeg (1987) and the editor of Your Worship: The Lives of Eight of Canada's Most Unforgettable Mayors (1989). His review and articles have appeared in the Globe and Mail, the Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday Night, The Beaver, and Books in Canada. Since 1984, he has taught at St. John's-Ravenscourt School. He lives in Winnipeg with his wife, Angie, and their two children.
"Allan Levine's Scrum Wars documents our long history of slanted, manipulated political views. If journalism is 'the first rough draft of history,' it sort of makes you want to take another look at the final draft."