The NDP is waging a stupid, incompetent internal war that demonstrates the party is unfit to govern. It's self-destructing when the polls show the party would likely win an election. And there's a pathetic Grade 6 schoolyard bickering feeling to the whole thing.
Broadly, here's the plot. Some MLAs think Carole James should be dumped as leader.
James faced the issue head on at a meeting of the party's provincial council last month. That's about 130 people, including a representative from each riding and various officials. MLAs can't vote, but they do attend.
James won the support of 84 per cent of the council.
But in a dumb move, her supporters handed out yellow scarves for people to wear to show support for James.
Thirteen MLAs didn't take them and were identified publicly as dissidents. They said they felt bullied.
If the ploy was dumb, so was the MLAs' decision not to take the scarves. This isn't grade school. Wear the scarf and sort out the issues later.
The anti-James campaign continued quietly. This week, MLA Jenny Kwan called for a leadership convention to replace James.
Kwan said the party had become less democratic. Decision-making was centralized and MLAs didn't have a voice. James changed party positions and MLAs had to read about in the newspaper. She won't take stands on tough issues or set out a vision.
And Kwan noted MLAs weren't told that party president Moe Sihota - an elected, traditionally volunteer position - was being paid $75,600 a year. Or that the money, donated specifically to pay Sihota, had come from the Steelworkers and CUPE, with a small amount from the B.C. Federation of Labour. (Credit for uncovering all this goes to Sean Holman at publiceyeonline.com.)
That too was dumb, as it raised the appearance the two unions were buying influence. Otherwise, why not donate to the party and let it decide on pay for the president?
James said she wouldn't quit. She's setting up a meeting of MLAs and about 10 members of the party's executive, including Sihota, to thrash out the issues on Sunday.
It's a colossal mess and no one involved looks good. The dissident MLAs are ignoring the party constitution, which calls for a vote on James's leadership next year, the provincial council vote of support and the destruction of the NDP's chances in the next election.
But James and company have failed to deal with problems until they reached a crisis point and created needless confrontations.
The critics also argue the New Democrats - and James - should be doing better in the polls. The most recent poll, by the Mustel Group, found the NDP with 42 per cent support, to the Liberals' 37 per cent. James had a minus 12 approval rating; Campbell had a minus 28.
If James can keep the party at 42 per cent, she would do better than Dave Barrett, Mike Harcourt or Glen Clark - all elected as NDP premiers with a smaller of the vote.
MLAs should demand a real role in making decisions. The concentration of power in the leader's office has made for bad policy and democratic rot.
But any party that could destroy itself like this can't expect public support. Who would elect an unstable party to government?
There are only a few options. James could bounce the dissidents and claim control of a smaller caucus at the meeting in the next few days.
She could quit and the NDP could plunge into a divisive, destructive leadership race, with or without her as a candidate
Or everyone can climb down a bit. Sihota could step down; James could promise caucus a bigger role; the rational dissidents could pledge to work for the good of the party; the less rational could leave.
Only the last option gives the party a chance in the 2013 election.
Footnote: The chances of successful resolution aren't great. The internal battle has pitted MLAs against each other and growing numbers of ex-politicians like Corky Evans - against James - and Paul Ramsey - for her - have joined the fray.
Saturday morning update
The Globe quotes some dissident MLAs saying they might not attend the caucus meeting, but if they do they don't want to discuss the issues - just to deliver their ultimatum that James should quit. (Though an ultimatum seems to require an "or this will happen" that's missing in this case.)
Refusal to discuss an issue usually signals fear that the person can't come up with a reasonable argument, but perhaps something else is at play.
It all makes the Liberal leadership race more significant, as their chances of re-election rise sharply. At some point, potential New Democrats will have to decide whether it's more useful to take out a Liberal membership and influence the leadership selection process.