nl-westcott-craig-20080909

Craig Westcott says he was wrong to have called Stephen Harper untrustworthy. ((CBC))

Two prominent St. John's journalists hoping to win seats in October's federal election say they have no regrets about withering criticism they have levelled at the very politicians they intend to serve under.

Craig Westcott, who once called Conservative Leader Stephen Harper a "control freak," is running for the Conservatives in St. John's East — even though he has said Harper and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams both "like to surround themselves with toadies who compete to stroke their massive egos."

Ryan Cleary, who is the former editor of the now-defunct newspaper Independent and is competing for the New Democratic Party's nomination in St. John's South-Mount Pearl, has labelled the NDP "losers" and written critically of the party's leader, Jack Layton.

Cleary, though, said he has no regrets about columns that included barbs like calling the NDP "a mainstream party that wouldn't win an election if Jackie Layton was given a 100-seat head start."

Cleary has also called NDP supporters — presumably including the rank-and-file members he expects to work on his campaign — a "small pocket of aging granolas and artsy-fartsies."

"I stand by what I've written and who I am. I call it as I see it," said Cleary, sporting a Jack Layton button on his jacket.

nl-cleary-ryan-20080909

Ryan Cleary once described the NDP as 'losers' but is seeking the party's nomination in St. John's South-Mount Pearl. ((CBC))

He acknowledged he "got a few interesting looks" when he showed up at a party news conference on Monday, when former MP Jack Harris announced he was coming out of political retirement to run in St. John's East.

"I can look anybody in the eye in the NDP party," Cleary told CBC News. "I am who I am. I call it as I see it."

Similarly, Westcott — a frequent commentator on CBC Radio and the publisher of the Business Post newspaper as well as a regional newspaper on the southern Avalon Peninsula — acknowledges he has been tough on Harper, but says he got some things wrong.

"I've been in the media business for 21 years: I would probably have to run with the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa to find somebody I haven't criticized," he said.

"I'm not going to run away from anything I've ever written. I've been wrong lots of times. Everybody is wrong sometimes," said Westcott.

Asked if he was wrong in earlier comments that Harper was untrustworthy on equalization, Westcott said, "About Harper, I was wrong — yeah, I think so."

The federal election is scheduled for Oct. 14.