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Potential new NDP leaders

My colleague on The Political Panel, CBC1 Mondays at 7:40, Moe Sihota, says that the NDP have no serious leadership problems. The fact that he’s the president of the NDP may be what’s casting the dust of stupidity in his eyes.

The NDP have long made the error of putting philosophy ahead of electability. I give you Tom Berger, Bob Skelly, Mike Harcourt (who only won on a monumental collapse of the Socreds and certainly couldn’t have won in a fair fight) Ujjal Dosanj and Carole James. I could even include Dave Barrett who won with 39% of the vote in 1972 as the Socreds crumbled, then lost three years later, again with 39%. The only clear NDP victory came with Glen Clark in 1996.

This surely happens because the obvious interest groups can only be brought together by a compromise which satisfies few (exception in 2001 when Indo Canadians were happy) leading to someone few love but no one really hates.

Cynical though it may be, there’s no point in having good issues if you’re not in government.

I’m often accused of using ancient examples and ignoring the great changes that have occurred since I left government in 1981. I ask, what changes? The basic dichotomy between philosophical purity and electability haven’t changed and exists wherever there is a democracy or here, where there are the trappings of democracy.

A winning party leader will put party purity behind him in order to get elected but more importantly, he will be an opportunist who will trim policies to suit the voters. Not a pretty sight I grant you but we’re not judging Ms. America here – we’re trying to convince the voters to support a leader and for the most part, these people aren’t the slightest bit interested in what the philosophical party catechism is unless it becomes an actual part of the election.

But, on reflection, you might think that an opportunistic, populist leader isn’t all that bad for isn’t democracy all about listening to the public and doing what they ask you to?

That’s not to say that any government should pander to the mob and not bring in legislation that’s for the good of all. Demagogues may be popular with a segment of the population but they seldom get elected. Oppositions often like to refer to the government they hate as demagogues but exaggerating the perceived sins of governments is part of trying to throw the rascals out.

Is there anyone in the NDP ranks who can combine ability to govern, paying only lip service, and then carefully, to the sterner tenets of his Party’s mission statement?

I’m sure that there may be others but here are three in alphabetical order: Adrian Dix, Mike Farnworth and John Horgan.

Adrian Dix understands the system, is outspoken, and shares the values of Middle British Columba. He’s bright and well acquainted with how government works having been employed with the NDP when they were in office. His drawback is a bit of naughtiness when he created a document which, if true, might have helped Glen Clark in his scandal with his carpenter/gambling license next door. That’s largely been forgotten now but won’t likely be in an election campaign.

I would see him as “centre left.”

Mike Farnworth has the advantage of having served in Cabinet. He’s bright, a good speaker, and has matured politically over the years. It shouldn’t be a problem but he’s gay; something right-wingers have been unable to accommodate to, which to me is a plus for Mike. He is also, to my senses, as “center left”.

John Horgan is also bright and articulate and one of the few NDP MLAs, including the leader, who understands the environment issue, an issue he will no doubt, ride on in the election of 2013. He too is centre left by my reckoning.

His drawback is his health – he is a cancer survivor.

This scarcely covers the possibilities. Norm Macdonald who resigned over the Bob Simpson problem, Leonard Krog come to mind and so do a number of women including Katrine Conroy, Kathy Corrigan, Sue Hammell, and Michelle Mungall though the last, while bright, ais  newcomer.

All of this must be taken in the context that there may not be a leadership race before the next election. The other extremely important factor is that a leadership contest could, if Carole James runs – indeed even if she doesn’t, be a bloodbath pitting not only the usual suspects against other usual suspects but including a for Carole “loyal” group and a Carole “disloyal” group.

When the Liberals have their contest they have a smaller number of contestants and may go outside the Caucus. More on that another time.

6 Responses to “Potential new NDP leaders”

  1. Terrence says:

    Thanks for posting this, Rafe.

    I am sorry the NDP is still in a mess regarding its leadership. I have always thought they put their left-wing ideology ahead of everything, in some twisted sense of purity. And they do this regardless of how unelectable they are own their own.

    The Liberals will probably loss the next election, even if King Gordo goes well before then. I think he has tainted the whole Fiberal party and all those who are seen to support him. I don’t think many will vote FOR the NDP; most will vote AGAINST King Gordo and the Fiberals. Oh, well…

  2. Stan Fraser says:

    I would like to see Jenny Kwan be leader.

  3. G Ruiz says:

    I wouldn’t like to see Jenny Kwan become the leader of the NDP. She’s absolutely too far to the left for me. I think John Horgan would be OK but I’ve never voted for the NDP and never will.

  4. Ed Seedhouse says:

    Interesting that all Rafe’s candidates happen to be men.

    I think that if you think that Carol James is on the far left you have lost contact with reality. Whatever James’s qualities they do not include being anything like “far left”. In fact most of the flack she’s getting from whithin is from those who want her to move further left, or (naturally) those who would like to see themselves in her place.

    Myself, I fear ideologues of any stripe. Today the ideologues who have power are in the Liberal party, not the NDP. And they are the real danger, and they are doing real damage.

    As an “insider” of sorts in the NDP I have met very few ideologues indeed. Calling the party “far left” is really just name calling designed to create fear so people will vote against their rational self interest.

    I don’t know if Carol James is the best leader for the NDP, but I do know that she is the leader elected by a democratic process. And that there is a democratic process (which James advocated for) to replace her if the party so desires.

    But as she is the team leader right now, it behooves rest of the team to follow her, not try to bring her down. I have talked personally and at length with one of the “candidates” Rafe likes, and he is actually a big supporter of – Carol James!

    I am a big admirer of Rafe as well, since he seems to be largely unblinded by ideology in most cases, but here I think he is letting his prejucies get the better of his rational self.

    I do wish other commentators could tone down the name calling and give actual real reasons for their positions. Alas, on this particular topic, name calling seems to be about all there is.

  5. Norm Farrell says:

    James has the NDP at almost 50% in the polls. Sure, the government is untrusted and unpopular but as commenter G. Ruiz wrote above, some people have their minds closed so tight that, regardless of who serves as leader, they are stuck on, “I’ve never voted for the NDP and never will.” Regardless of facts, issues or personalities, to say, “I will do this or I will not do that.” is plain dumb.

    However, it’s a fact of political life that probably prevents the NDP, in the short term, from appealing to more people than it does right now. Carole James has not yet convinced me that she would be an excellent Premier but she seems to be her own person, not a captive of special interests. She seems thoughtful, not given to extremes or intemperance. She has gradually improved the party’s front bench and she has worked tirelessly in the boondocks.

    Don’t compare James’ organization to the Liberals. The minions of big business have the treasury but also a near endless party budget to hire and reward staff and consultants, payoff the media with lavish contracts or spin stories with help of over 200 PABsters, including about 20 media monitors paid $50 k a year to read blogs and other media. Think about Campbell’s recent $250,000 puff piece on Global and the continuous radio advertising about the wonders of HST. Of course, the list could go on and on.

    I’m waiting for Carole James and the new Liberal leader to define updated election platforms but, more importantly, to find a way of guaranteeing that will be kept. In British Columbia, we’ve been exposed to a bold strategy of purposeful lying for a decade. Liberals have had little regard for truth.

    Any new leader, to be successful, must regain trust. After Campbell, that will not be easy.

  6. Alex says:

    Rafe, to my knowledge Carole James is the most centrist NDP leader in their history. She’s upset union leaders and traditional lefties with her middle-of-the-road stance on most issues. (Please note that, unlike you, I am actually discussing the person who presently leads the NDP.)
    You state that you’re not being superficial, but you are. And frankly, baseless complaints like yours smack of misogyny and/or racism. You don’t like James because she lacks charisma in your opinion? Fine. Say it. Got anything else? Because your rambling on about this sure seems pointless to me.

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