Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hitting peak support, New Democrats talk leadership change

There's something weird in the fact that some New Democrats are musing about a leadership change while Liberals maintain a discrete silence about their meltdown.
Gordon Campbell's party is reviled over the HST and its performance has been stumbling.
An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll released this week found Liberal support has been halved since the May 2009 election. The party has the support of 23 per cent of decided voters. That's heading down to the levels of NDP support before voters elected just two New Democrats in the 2001 election.
Meanwhile, the NDP support stands at 46 per cent, up from 42 per cent in the election last year. The Greens are at 14 per cent and the B.C. Conservatives at eight per cent - not bad for a party that doesn't really exist yet.
But an online straw poll on the Georgia Straight website found 87 per cent support for dumping James and getting a new NDP leader before the next election.
The theory is apparently that the party could have more support and a bigger lead in the polls with a different leader.
It's an oddly self-destructive approach for the party.
If the New Democrats can hold this level of the support until the next election, they will have matched their best ever performance at the polls. (The NDP under Dave Barrett took 46 per cent of the support in 1979.)
And an election today would result in an NDP government with a comfortable majority.
That's not to give rave reviews to the party's performance under James. The HST debacle has been a gift to the New Democrats. And given the extent of the public anger, it's hard to raise other issues.
But the party hasn't effectively raised concerns about other issues, from school closures to cuts to people with disabilities to struggling rural economies.
Still, Campbell's approval rating plummeted to 28 per cent in a May Mustel Group poll, with 61 per cent of those polled saying he was doing a bad job. James had 40 per cent approval and 28-per-cent disapproval.
And an Angus Reid poll in April found Campbell brought to my mind arrogance (72 per cent); secretiveness (56 per cent); dishonest (55 per cent); uncaring (51 per cent); and out of touch (49 per cent).
James ranked highest for compassion (45 per cent); down to earth (40 per cent); weak (38 per cent); inefficient (35 per cent); and openness (33 per cent).
Not stellar, to be sure.
And it's a given, unless the Liberals have lost all touch with reality, that the NDP will face a new leader in 2013.
Assuming that everyone in the current Liberal ranks - certainly in cabinet - is disqualified because of the HST taint, that opens the door to a fresh start for the party. (The names of Carole Taylor, Surrey Mayor Diane Watts and ex-Liberal cabinet minister Christy Clark are most frequently mentioned.)
But still, the NDP is doing awfully well in the polls. Dumping the leader would be disruptive and divisive.
And there is no guarantee that a successor would have any greater appeal and the risk that whoever was selected would be less attractive to voters.
B.C. New Democrats always seem to like a good internal fight; it's one of the party's least useful, most destructive qualities.
And the NDP's ideological purists often appear determined to keep the party far enough to the traditional ''left' positions that a noble defeat is the almost certain election outcome.
A leadership challenge now would likely convince a lot of voters that the New Democrats just don't want to govern.
James and the New Democrat MLAs can do a better job. They need, among other things, to build confidence in their ability to govern and bring economic growth rather than just criticize.
But the notion that this is a good time for a leadership change - when the party's support matches its highest-ever popular vote in an election - is odd.
Footnote: The Angus Reid poll found 75 per cent of British Columbians would vote to abolish the HST in a referendum if one is held. Almost 50 per cent would definitely sign a recall petition and 18 per cent would probably sign.


Brenton said...

How many of those 87% who think the NDP should change its leader are party members? I would guess few to none. Only 303 people voted yes in that poll. So your headline "New Democrats talk leadership change" is quite misleading.

Anonymous said...

Carole Taylor. Remember what she did for the BC Liberals in 2005?

Prior to Taylor's recruitment to run for the BC Liberals the polls showed that university educated women were overwhelmingly supporting the NDP.

After Taylor was enlisted by Campbell & Co. (perhaps with the promise of the finance portfolio) the prospects immediately started to rise for the BC Liberals. The post election analysis showed that the demographic with the biggest swing was amongst educated women - a swing large enough to give the BC Liberals a comfortable majority.

Of the three women noted in PW's post (Taylor, Diane Watts and Christy Clark) I would think Clark is the least likely given that the BC Rail trial is still hanging over her husband's head and won't be settled in time - voters and party members won't go for that kind of uncertainty. Watts seems to be firmly ensconced with a long term agenda for Surrey. That leaves Taylor.

Could Coleman or Falcon out muscle Taylor in a leadership race within the faithful? Will the religious right accept a women?

Norman Farrell said...

I agree with your analysis quite completely. The 42% secured by James' NDP in the 2009 election and the 46% support shown in polls sets the high point for support throughout the last two decades, probably longer.

She has done that despite main stream media providers (Corus, Global, Canwest) who are clearly on side with Campbell's Liberals. Will a new face in the leader's chair change that coverage? Doubtful, it seems considered and persistent, related not to James but philosophical goals.

I would leave this in the hands of the existing caucus. They would know best what her capabilities are and whether the party is better off with or without her at the top. Of course, I favor a more influential caucus for all parties. With the Liberals, Campbell rules without regard for his MLAs, only his immediate coterie.

Liberals are dreaming if they think anyone can restore them if they wait until shortly before the election to dump Campbell. The smell of corruption has soiled the covering of all those other Liberals. Being absolute outsiders to the HST is proof that they are worthless anyway.

DPL said...

The poster directly before this one has it right. The party membership does the deciding and we can leave it at that. Personally I dislike her flip flopping around but hey, who am I. She used to be my MLA and lucky for us , the riding shifted so I could still vote for the party not her. The present polls are where they are more because Gordo is such a flake and not her handling of things. I will never forget that she, by her actions removed a previous government and long time party position on Agricultural land and how it was supposed to be treated if involved in a treaty settlement. I spent 10 years hanging around treaty tables and the subject of agricultural land being handed over complete with the same regulations was well known and understood.
She flopped on pay more than once as well.She may be a leader but she sure as heck isn't mine. Mind you Gordo should be drop-able as we don't vote for people we vote against people. Ain't BC politics grand!!

Anonymous said...

rubbish! this article demonstrates mr. willcox does indeed work for the dispicable corporate media.