Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Campbell dragging party down with him

Gordon Campbell's decision to stick around as a lame duck party leader is terrible news for the Liberals.
Campbell took questions from reporters on the day after he announced he would step down.
It was an odd performance. Campbell talked like a popular premier leaving at the top of his game, rather than a liability for his party.
He said he wouldn't step aside for an interim leader. Instead, he'll stay on as leader and premier until a leadership convention is held - within the next six months or so, according to the party's shaky constitution.
That wouldn't be awkward, he said. It's not as if any of the leadership candidates would be questioning the Liberals' past choices on the HST or other issues.
"The new leader, certainly if they're from inside government, will have been part of those decisions," Campbell said.
Bad news for Rich Coleman, Kevin Falcon or anyone else in the current government looking to run for leader on the promise of a new direction.
Even if outside candidates came forward, Campbell said, they surely would accept his priorities.
"They believe in strengthening the private sector economy," he said. "They'll believe in leaving more money in people's pockets. That's what the party has always stood for, and frankly, it's a continuation of that."
Leadership campaigns can be a chance for unpopular parties - like the Liberals - to make a fresh start. They can distance themselves from an unpopular leader - like Campbell - and offer a new vision and style.
Unless the old leader sabotages that opportunity by insisting that it will be business as usual no matter who emerges as Liberal leader.
So Campbell will be peering over the shoulders of leadership candidates, frowning at challenges to the status quo or any concerns about the party's past efforts.
Meanwhile, the Liberal party has apparently been caught off guard by the first leadership contest in 17 years.
The Liberal constitution sets out a leadership vote process. Anyone who joins the party at least seven weeks before the leadership contest gets a vote. Low-polling candidates are dropped until someone gets majority support. And the constitution seems to contemplate a series of mail ballots - kind of a slow motion leadership process.
The Liberals are now considering new rules, according to Sean Holman at publiceyeonline.com.
The one-member, one-vote model has appeal. But it also encourages the mass sign-up of instant party members by candidates - religious and ethnic communities are often targeted - and places candidates outside the Lower Mainland at a huge disadvantage.
Holman reports some Liberals are advocating a leadership selection process like the Ontario Conservatives used last year. Each riding had 100 votes; those were allocated based on the party members' choice in a constituency ballot.
That makes it worthwhile to sign up new members, but doesn't let the leadership choice rest on instant Liberals gathered in bulk. (Though it does give the same weight to a riding with 40 members and no hope of electing a Liberal MLA as it does to a powerhouse of party support.)
Meanwhile, the leadership race has begun. Rich Coleman has promised to look at the new drinking-driving laws to see if they're too effective in keeping drivers who have had a glass or two of wine off the roads. George Abbott says he'd step down from cabinet if he runs, to avoid conflict. Coleman says he won't. Kevin Falcon says he hopes Carole Taylor runs. And that's just the early jockeying.
Campbell's decision to hang around, the ghost of Olympics past, does the Liberal party no favours.
And a slow-motion leadership campaign would do the province no favours. Business and consumers hate uncertainty; a long campaign - along with the wait for the HST referendum - create months of political and economic uncertainty.
Footnote: Meanwhile, some New Democrats continue to grumble about Carole James. That seems bizarre - the NDP has a two-to-one lead in the polls and a good chance of forming government no matter who the Liberals select. Plunging the party into a potentially divisive leadership fight makes little sense.


Anonymous said...

I don't think the grumbling in the NDP is a majority. The Bob Simpson episode aside, most New Democrat supporters understand the stakes are high, and now is the time to unite and win government.

Bob fits into the fine tradition of politicians who seek to generate a populist appeal, but like Corky Evans before him, he has a strong verbal ability but fails to work well with others.

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that Campbell needs to stick around until May 2011 to collect his full pension.

Perhaps if we all chip in a loonie or two we can get rid of him sooner and have a very merry christmas!