© Kevin Tobin
It’s a good thing we live in a peaceful democracy ruled by law, or the attempted coup this week by the gang of four NDP MHAs could have been ugly.
Fortunately, the only blood spilled is coming from devout NDP supporters banging their heads against a wall and wailing, “What … were … they … thinking?”
What were they thinking, indeed. The most recent public opinion poll, released three weeks ago, revealed NDP Leader Lorraine Michael is the most popular provincial leader.
Michael’s approval rating was 63 per cent. Dwight Ball, current Liberal leadership candidate and former interim leader, had an approval rating of 57 per cent. Premier Kathy Dunderdale trailed at 20 per cent.
Dunderdale’s administration is widely loathed, and yet she received enthusiastic support and endorsement at the Progressive Conservatives’ convention in Gander in September. If any party should send in the tanks against its own leader, it is the PCs.
But this being Newfoundland (and Labrador), things are done backwards. The party leader with the highest popularity rating is the one fending off a coup.
MHAs Gerry Rogers and George Murphy have publicly bemoaned their behaviour in betraying their leader.
MHAs Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore remain insistent that the NDP should hold a leadership convention so party members can vote on it.
The foursome’s letter to Michael was bluntly clear. If you use “leadership convention” and “party renewal” in the same sentence, as they did, it’s obvious you want the current leader tossed.
If they weren’t idealistic, righteous socialists working for equality and justice, you’d swear you could read between the lines and hear, “You’re fired.” All that’s missing is the gold watch.
Maybe they based their actions on precedent. After all, in 1983, then-federal PC leader Joe Clark decided 66 per cent support among party members wasn’t sufficient to justify his position, and called a leadership convention. (He subsequently lost to Brian Mulroney.)
Michael’s 63 per cent popularity rating might be unsatisfactory to the gang of four, but you have to wonder if any of them could hit that number.
The rebellious MHAs’ lack of self-awareness is astounding. It is an undesirable, but common, trait in politicians.
Recall the October 2011 provincial election. By any objective measure, Michael proved her competence and did an admirable job by leading the NDP to its best-ever performance, winning five seats — including her own — and coming close to forming the official opposition.
A good argument could be made that Rogers, Murphy, Kirby and Mitchelmore rode into the House of Assembly on Michael’s coattails, just as the Tories rode back into power on Danny Williams’ coattails, even though he had retired to hockeyland.
And yet, in their emailed letter — emailed; the dating equivalent of, “We’re so over! Send” — the fighting four are exposed as unwilling to acknowledge Michael’s role in their own success.
They told Michael they want a leadership convention — i.e., her removal — because they have “genuine concern for our party’s ability to attract quality candidates.”
Stop right there. Back up a bit. Go back to 2011. Was the party able to attract “quality candidates”? Were any of them named Murphy, Kirby, Rogers or Mitchelmore? Who was leader at the time?
The miffed members needed a good copy editor who could have read their letter beforehand and said, “Uh, guys, there’s some glaring inconsistency and hypocrisy in here.”
Self-destruction is typical of leftoids (see: Bob Rae, Ontario, premier of). This failed coup will be a boon to the Liberals. To limit the damage done, NDP had better hope the Liberals are foolish enough to elect either Cathy Bennett or Danny Dumaresque as their next leader.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com