It’s clear that, if nothing else, the provincial NDP caucus is not very politically astute. And that’s a bad thing for people who are, well, politicians.
Monday, news surfaced that four of the NDP’s five provincial MHAs — Dale Kirby, George Murphy, Gerry Rogers and Christopher Mitchelmore — had written a letter to the fifth NDP member, party leader Lorraine Michael, suggesting the party should hold a leadership review.
This, at a time when Michael has the highest approval ratings of any party leader and when the party has more seats in the provincial House of Assembly than it has ever had.
From the outside, it’s a little difficult to figure out exactly why. Perhaps the fab four felt that it’s been difficult for Michael to go from running a party of one MHA to the five it now holds. Perhaps, with a little political experience under their belts, they now feel they’ve got the right to make demands. Perhaps they don’t like her style — sometimes, the methods of a long-time campaigner nearing retirement are vastly different from what a party’s younger members feel is necessary.
Perhaps the strongest message in their letter is that they believe a leadership review is necessary to attract new candidates for the party, something that may well be a legitimate concern; it’s tough to grow a party, and if the groundwork isn’t already being done for the next election, there are clearly rough waters ahead for the party.
But when it comes to their method of handling this particular contretemps, they’ve blown it, big time.
First, there’s the fact they decided to send an email to Michael outlining their concerns, instead of handling it internally. How leaky is the party? Journalists knew about the letter before Lorraine Michael did. The letter was sent on Sunday and by Monday, it was on the news. It couldn’t have been more public.
Except, yes, it could.
The shortage of political astuteness apparently doesn’t end with Kirby, Murphy, Rogers and Mitchelmore.
Lorraine Michael decided the best way to handle the concerns about her leadership was to go on television and spread the whole mess as wide as possible.
It grew immediately from family fight to civil war. Chances are, it will continue to be messy, public and divisive.
Perhaps the NDP could have taken a leaf from the provincial Progressive Conservative playbook: stand loudly and publicly behind your leader, and keep the other discussions under wraps and off the printed page as much as you can.
Instead, they have handled this particularly badly, and given a tidy little gift to the provincial Liberals and PCs.
Think of it this way: if you can’t handle a caucus of five measly members, how could you ever hope to manage a province of some 510,000 people?
It is the NDP equivalent of snatching defeat from the jaws of potential victory.
It has turned into dirty laundry-fest of the first order.
Well done, folks.