Friday, October 8, 2010

How much trouble is the BC NDP in?

The loss of Bob Simpson is clearly a blow for the party and the whole incident exposes the weaknesses of the party at the moment. Here is what I see:

Even though the Liberal support is way down, the NDP has not really gained any support.  The NDP can trumpet a 20 point lead, but if they are not asking why the public is not coming to them from the Liberals, they are in trouble going into the election.   It says to me the party is out of touch with the public and unable to see where their weaknesses are.

For several years I have not managed to find anyone that could say with a straight face that they thought Carole James was the right person to lead the party.

The way the Bob Simpson situation was handled was done badly and without thought about how it would play out in the media. The expulsion looks like it was knee jerk and sudden. Doing it at 9:15pm on a Wednesday night leaves two full media days for the story to play out. The NDP was also not ready with a detailed press release and could not even get Bob Simpson off of their website for more than 12 hours. If this was not enough, Carole James expelled him less than 24 hours before she was scheduled to be on the Voice of BC with Vaughn Palmer.

The NDP is without a clear direction and vision for when it becomes government.  The NDP seems to be looking for the issue that is popular in the polls and takes the popular side of the issue.  I honestly have no idea where the NDP stands on any natural resource issues, First Nations issues or the environment.   All I can certain of is that the NDP want  to be government and do not want to govern like Gordon Campbell, whatever that means.

Coming out of Bob Simpson there has been a lot more NDP voices speaking out against Carole James than I expected.   Probably the most popular New Democrat in BC, Corky Evans, has come out in support of Bob SimpsonPublic Eye Online has a ever increasing list of people from the NDP.  What I find interesting is the sort of debate going on at Rabble.ca  - Carole James has a large amount of dissent within the party and it is coming out now.

Also coming out of this event is the news that the NDP membership is falling and they are losing their monthly donors.   This is the time the NDP should be seeing membership in the tens of thousands.   At a roughly comparable time for the Liberals in the run up to 2001 their membership was huge, over 100,000.  If the NDP membership is falling and it was only around 13,000 around the end of the last election, this is a very, very scary prospect for the party.

People in BC are very anti-authoritarian.   Gordon Campbell has suffered for looking like an autocrat.   Bill Vander Zalm crashed and burned in part because he was too autocratic.   The NDP has always suffered politically for not being very accepting of any dissent.   The outing of Bob Simpson for 'not being a team player' because of some criticism that is so mild almost no one would have noticed it makes Carole James look like a mini Hugo Chavez.

Carole James should have been able to see that she is a liability for the party and should have stepped down shortly after having lost the last election.

As it stand, the NDP is still likely to win the 2013 election and Carole James will be premier, but the election will be much, much closer than people expect and could have a dramatically different result.  A Liberal party with a new leader could see a repeat of the 1986 election for the NDP.
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