MHAs’ attack on leader could cost party, MUN’s Kelly Blidook says
Memorial University political scientist Kelly Blidook says it might not be impossible for the NDP to bounce back, but it’s tough to imagine how the week could have gone worse for them.
The New Democrats were rocked by tumult after caucus members wrote a letter to leader Lorraine Michael asking for a leadership convention to reassess whether she’s the best person to remain at the helm.
Since then, MHA George Murphy has apologized, and said he feels like he “betrayed” Michael; MHA Gerry Rogers partially backtracked, too.
MHA Christopher Mitchelmore said he stands by the letter, and MHA Dale Kirby is sticking to his guns, but doesn’t know if he has a future in the NDP.
“This just looks horribly unprofessional and immature. This is definitely not a group of people who are showing that they can govern soon,” Blidook said. “One of the obvious rules of politics is to avoid shooting oneself in the foot. The NDP just shot both of them.”
Part of the problem, Blidook said, goes all the way back to the NDP constitution, which doesn’t contain any mechanism for a leadership review.
Typically, parties hold some sort of review where members vote on whether they support the leader — usually after an election.
But without anything like that, it becomes a lot harder for the party to broach leadership issues, without it seeming like a coup.
“To me, that’s why you have a constituted set of rules, if you’re going to question it based on evidence and by following rules,” Blidook said. “If you don’t have that, all you’re doing is spitballing, right? You’re kind of guessing. And that’s not a good thing to be doing with leadership of provincial political parties.”
Now that the questions about Michael’s leadership are out there, Blidook said, the party should probably just hold some sort of leadership process.
“I would, at this point, be looking for a means of collecting clear evidence that the membership supports Michael — or not,” he said.
Despite the fact that there is no mechanism in the NDP constitution for a leadership review, that’s what Murphy and Rogers said they were advocating for when they sent the letter.
However, by asking for a leadership convention instead — something that could only happen if the leader’s position is vacant — they sent a different message.
“The letter says ‘leadership convention’ and most of us assume that to mean a process for deciding on who will be leader. And I think if that’s what they actually meant when they wrote the letter, then I think they’re crazy,” Blidook said. “It’s completely different. It’s telling her, ‘We think there might be someone better for this, and we’d like you to step down.’”