Controversy came from ‘politically inexperienced’ caucus, Michael says
New Democrat MHA George Murphy says he made a huge mistake signing a letter that called for NDP Leader Lorraine Michael to resign.
© — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
New Democrat MHA George Murphy says he made a mistake when he signed a letter that called Lorraine Michael’s leadership into question.
Murphy said he thought he was calling for a party leadership review.
He said he wanted the party to “come together and, I guess, give that ringing endorsement to Lorraine Michael.”
Instead, he said he didn’t sleep Monday night after the news broke, and he’s tormented by the turmoil that his party is now facing.
“I’m feeling like I betrayed Lorraine, and that wasn’t the intent,” he said. “It was a mistake, and that’s all I can say about it.”
All four NDP MHAs signed a letter sent to Michael Sunday, calling for a leadership convention in 2014 to review her leadership.
“With two years remaining before the next scheduled Provincial General Election in 2015, we believe that a Leadership Convention in 2014 is critical if there is to be party renewal and growth in support for the New Democratic Party in Newfoundland and Labrador,” the letter said, bearing Murphy’s signature alongside those of Christopher Mitchelmore, Gerry Rogers and Dale Kirby. “We collectively make this request out of genuine concern for our Party’s ability to attract quality candidates and build on our level of public support in advance of the 2015 election.”
On Monday, after word of the letter broke, MHA Dale Kirby said that he was passing along concerns about Michael’s leadership that he’s hearing from NDP rank-and-file members, as well as constituents in his district.
But by Tuesday morning, some of his comrades were backtracking.
MHA Gerry Rogers said she signed the letter because she felt that a leadership review is a healthy thing for the party to do from time-to-time.
But she said that on further reflection, sending the letter was a mistake.
“We didn’t handle this well. It was really clumsy,” Rogers said. “I wish we had done it another way.”
Rogers said she’s heard from New Democrats who support Michael, and also party members who question her leadership.
“I’m hearing people who are really strong supporters of Lorraine and feel that she has taken this party to where it is today, and I’m hearing from people the same thing, but that now it’s time for a change,” Rogers said.
Personally, she said she doesn’t know if Michael is the best leader for the NDP right now.
“At this point, I don’t know,” she said. “This is the work that we have to do.”
Rogers said she hopes party members and caucus members will spend their time discussing things and decide whether there’s a need for a leadership review.
“We’re now into 2013. It’s been seven years. And it’s necessary and healthy for parties to have reviews,” she said.
As for Michael, she said receiving the letter hurt, because it felt like her four caucus members snuck up on her.
“I felt betrayed by the letter,” she said. “There’d been no lead-up to it.”
She said she felt that when it was sent to her, it was a mistake. Instead, she said the caucus should have sat down and talked with her.
“We have people who are politically inexperienced. Two years is not enough to learn everything about how to run a caucus and how you be a caucus,” Michael said. “I think a mistake was made.”
On the other hand, Michael said she sees no failure in leadership on her own part.
“I do not feel failure. I feel sadness over this, because I’m not sure where it’s all coming from,” she said. “I can’t see what I could have done to stop the letter from happening, because it’s not dealing with anything concrete. Like, it’s not telling me anything to do with our ongoing work here.”
One of the mysteries of the saga is who leaked the letter to the media. One source informed The Telegram of its existence Sunday, before Michael even received it.
Michael said only six people knew of its existence — herself, the four MHAs who signed it, and the NDP party president who was CC’d on the email.
Murphy said knowing that one of those people leaked it to the media is hard to swallow.
“That was absolutely insulting to me,” he said. “That crushed me.”