NDP’s in a great big pickle

Randy Simms
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Waiting for a vote is one of the most exciting things about democracy, especially when the outcome is not known beforehand.

Most of the time, political decision-making is predictable and the outcome is known long before the yeas and nays are counted. But sometimes things are not quite so clear.

That’s when it gets interesting.

The NDP is going to hold a vote in spring 2014 on Lorraine Michael’s leadership. It will be one of the more interesting votes in awhile. These reviews of leadership, usually held at annual conventions, are treated as routine and rarely cause difficulty.

That won’t be the case for the NDP.

The party has moved its annual convention up to the spring instead of next fall to focus on the leadership question. The party brass has yet to work out how it will come together because this is the first time the issue has arisen.

Unlike a leadership contest, where a number of candidates vie for the top job, this vote will focus on the current leader only. Party members will decide if they want to keep her in that role or look for someone new.

Lorraine Michael will be under the microscope for several months while the details of how to hold such a vote are worked out. You can be sure a simple show of hands won’t determine the outcome; the party will require a more elaborate procedure than that.

From now until then, the NDP will be focused inward.

Policy development, election readiness and functioning as an effective opposition kind of goes out the window. The debate over the leadership will occupy political junkies and, in the absence of anything else taking place, it will give the third party a lot of attention.

Sadly for the NDP, it will be the kind of attention they don’t need at a critical time in their political development.

If anyone had suggested two weeks ago that the NDP should oust their leader, they would have been laughed off the stage.

How quickly things can change. It turns out that lots of people inside the party are not enamoured with Michael — she has enemies.

Rumour has it that her approach to leadership is as boss and not as coach; the old my-way-or-the-highway philosophy.

Sound familiar?

People like Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore are not going to sit idly by waiting for the outcome, either. After all, independent MHAs sit in a lonely place. They’ll realize that quickly.

Unless one, or both of them, joins another party, expect them to try and influence the vote. They are out of caucus because they wanted a new leader.  They’ve said they won’t sit in Michael’s caucus but they’re keeping their membership in the party and the executive has approved it. It’s a curious development.

Should two of the people blamed for causing this debacle be allowed to stay with the party if they are unwilling to sit in the caucus? If you quit the caucus after being elected under the party banner, how can you leave and still be a member in good standing?

Obviously it can be done, because the boys have done it. For Kirby and Mitchelmore, it means they can work on the inside to get her removed. The fact they are able to hold on to their membership cards after all of this proves they are not without friends in this fight.

The NDP is between a rock and a hard place. If Michael stays on she will be a wounded warrior leading a fractured party into the next provincial election. If delegates decide to hold a full-fledged leadership contest, the timing will bring it so close to the provincial election that attracting candidates, organizing a campaign and developing a winning team will be almost impossible.

If Michael hangs in, this will be one exciting vote.

Randy Simms is a political commentator and broadcaster. He can be reached at rsimms@nf.sympatico.ca

Twitter: @RandyRsimms

Organizations: NDP

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Recent comments

  • Stephen  Redgrave
    Stephen Redgrave
    November 06, 2013 - 07:54

    Everytime I read your column I come away feeling as though I have heard ,and learned absolutely nothing new. Like the commentator at a hockey game--we all saw the big play, and having a "colour man" re-hash what we aready know, serves no purpose to anyone familiar with the game--in this case, everyone! Get out of your chair, live a little, then write about something you've actually done in life other than critisize others and stating the obvious.

  • Shelly Noseworthy
    November 05, 2013 - 07:44

    Randy they have done nothing to break party policy. Just because a person disagrees with the leader and leaves a caucus does not mean he/she is not a good NDPer.

  • DAVE
    November 05, 2013 - 07:42

    Why are your comments of little value to me as an NDP member. Randy has always been right of the most conservate thinking and then some.