Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why does the Newfoundland NDP caucus want to get rid of their leader?

The NDP does not have a long history of success in Newfoundland and Labrador.   The breakthrough in the 2011 election took the party from one seat to five seats and second place in popular vote.   Previously the NDP only managed to break 10% and did not really matter in politics on the rock.    So I am sort of shocked to hear that all four other NDP MHAs have signed a letter asking for a leadership vote in 2014.

You can get more details from Ed Hollett of the Sir Robert Bond Papers blog.

Given the fact the Lorraine Michael has started to talk about this in public is not good for any chance for this to be resolved quietly.    I suspect she, and her people, are angry but there have to have been signs not all was well for some time.

As far as I can tell this is not an ideological revolt as the caucus is interestingly diverse:
Four people new to elected politics and within two years they are seeking the replacement of the leader that brought them this success, there is something going on here but I have no inside knowledge of what.   They seem to have made their plans while the Lorraine Michael was on holidays and launched it on her as soon as she returned this week.

Maybe at 70 they think Lorraine Michael is too old to lead the party in the next election?  I see nothing to indicate that is the issue.

Maybe she is hard to work with?  Given that the four other MHAs wrote the letter while she was on holidays and then sent it to her as an email says to me that she is likely not easy  to deal with in person.  Her reaction to the whole event makes me think she has some significant interpersonal issues with the people in her caucus.

This revolt reminds me of that happened to Lynda Haverstock in Saskatchewan and Olive Crane in PEI.   In both cases there seemed to be something happening with respect to how the leader interacted with the other members of the caucus

In 1991 Lynda Haverstock took the Saskatchewan Liberals back into the house with her own election as MLA.  The Liberals had been without a seat for close to three years after they lost the by-election to replace Ralph Goodale.   In 1995 she took the party to official opposition and 11 seats, but every shortly after this break through for the Liberals the caucus removed her as leader.

In PEI Olive Crane became leader of the PCs in 2010 and took the party to a much higher percentage of the vote and number of seats than people expected.  She was the only one of the five PC MLAs that had been elected before.  Clearly something was going wrong with her leadership and the caucus because she resigned in January of this year.   On October 4th she was expelled from the PC caucus for speaking in the media about internal PC issues.

The future for Lorraine Michael as leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador NDP is over and she needs to figure out the best way for her to leave and not harm the party too much.   The media route she has taken is not doing the party any favours.   I have to wonder if she has pushed George Murphy into speaking out against what has happened?

Today it has come out that the four MHAs were not in agreement it seems.    George Murphy says he was pressured into signing the letter and says that Gerry Rogers was also pressured into signing.   He no longer supports the letter than he signed.   Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore both are still clearly in support of the letter.   So you have a split caucus, two MHAs that are weak and wishy washy and two MHAs that have backbone.

Could this all be a move for personal political gain by Dale Kirby?  Maybe, but it is a really dumb way to go about it given that he effectively knee capping the party and creating a lot of people that will hate within the NDP.   It does not ring true to me because next election is most likely in October of 2015 and it seems probable the NDP will make some modest gains and no more.   Shortly after the next election would be obvious time for Lorraine Michael to step down as leader and Dale Kirby would still be more than young enough to lead the party at that point.

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