Monday, 28 October 2013


Who but the most ardent partisan would not be ‘gob smacked’ by the recent implosion of the NDP? 
As charges, criticisms, apologies, denials and mistrust entangled after each newscast it was tempting to conduct a recount of the NDP Caucus.  Was it possible that the rancor was coming from just five people?

If one word had to describe public reaction to the dirty laundry, so publicly aired, it might simply be “disappointment”. 

I think it is the right word; it neither exaggerates nor diminishes the importance of what has occurred. It speaks to a loss of trust.  It conveys recognition that high hopes were, in fact, too high.

It is not just that the NDP claims a higher moral standard than the traditional parties or that its supporters unwittingly assert the potential to perform fiscally implausible feats. There are other considerations, too.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael
Photo: The Canadian Press/.Paul Daly
The people who comprise the NDP Caucus seem normal, reasonably intelligent, decent and honest folk, representative of the new middle class that the Party largely attracts.

In the last election, success coincided with Jack Layton’s deification, while still among us, and the election of two MPs to the House of Commons.  Yet, no one will deny that Lorraine Michael also attracted voters and inspired them with the confidence of one who is skillful, passionate and an able communicator. 

Though the NDP earned five seats the Liberal Party, which has been in and out of power, won only one seat more.

In addition, after the election the cataclysmic demise of the Dunderdale Tories saw public support migrate not to the Liberals, at least not early on, but to the party of Lorraine Michael whom successive Polls confirmed as enjoying high personal popularity. 

Michael became a leader to be taken seriously.  Talk of her Party’s potential, especially on the North-east Avalon, was entertained; a seat in The Straits-White Bay North suggested a larger rural foothold was not beyond reach.  Long days in the political wilderness were seemingly at an end.

But recent Polls suggested an emerging problem. The fortunes of the Liberal Party, moribund and uninspired, had begun to turn-around.   

Whether credit for that nascent trend can be credited to Dwight Ball who inspires trust, or if the whimsical youthfulness of Pierre Trudeau’s son has stolen the ‘Layton effect’ or that Kathy Dunderdale has driven away even core Tory supporters, all are debatable. 

What is certain is that the ascension of the NDP trend line had come to a halt.  The question being asked, including by this Blog, is whether support for the NDP has stalled or that, possibly,  its potential has been reached for now. 

When I posted THE LIBERAL LEADERSHIP, THE NDP AND THE EFFECTS OF BOREDOM one week ago the implication suitably headlined, I had no idea that things were so unwell inside the NDP Caucus.  Silence had characterized their media relations lately.   

Then the sky fell. 

The questions invoked, following the debacle, are these: can NDP Caucus unity be mended? What does the ruckus imply for the future of Lorraine Michael?  What does it mean for the Province and for the New Democratic Party?

I suggest the NDP has served notice that it is not ready for high office.  

The NDP should already be proving that it is a magnet for more and stronger candidates, for greater financial support, a place where a larger organization is being sculpted. Readiness suggests the leader is better prepared, scripted, disciplined and is supported, not just by her Caucus, but by an increasing groundswell confirmed by pollsters, pundits and the media. 

Readiness constitutes a certainty that the Party can pass inspection.  It must not be just able to win.  It must show a capacity to govern. 

Unfortunately, for the NDP, it has barely gotten beyond good Polls.

If last week’s kerfuffle was the result of an unfortunate leak, properly handled, the public might have forgiven Members’ high spirits. A letter of demand, sent by email, to the Leader, leaked to the media, its intent disavowed by two, supported by the two others, apologies, regrets, cries of intimidation and betrayal, all make great television - if you are into soap operas.

But, what was most obvious was that none of the four possessed courage or good judgment. The very idea of emailing Ms. Michael, what in essence was a letter of rebuke, is its own sad appraisal.

Ms. Michael is not without blame. The first reaction of the NDP Leader, just back after a month in India, ought to have been an invocation of the “high-souled” qualities of Mahatma Ghandi.  Instead, she expressed unbridled outrage through the media.  There is no one who believes the broadside was unexpected.  She ought to have invited enumeration of her own shortcomings, assuaged bruised egos and moderated unbounded expectations in the more collegial and private chamber of the caucus room. 

All that was placed on offer was a mediator and a meeting five days too late.  Talk about amateur hour! 

If the Dunderdale Administration were anything but an arrogant, unaccountable, and intellectually bankrupt administration, unworthy of governing a decent people in a democratic society, why would we even notice the five member caucus of the NDP? 

Why would we care if a film producer, a development officer, a taxi driver and two teachers suddenly and collectively confirmed their incapacity to meet the minimum expectations of running a political party?  We would not.

But, the Dunderdale Government is in a bad state of repair.  And we still do not know who the new Liberal leader will be or how much baggage will follow him/her in the contest’s aftermath.

There are lots of people who do not embrace the NDP as an ideological home.  That is not the same as saying they would not vote NDP.  Against a Liberal Party of uncertain outlook why wouldn’t voters give the NDP a chance? At a minimum, public desperation over the alternatives may drive them to seek a quantum of solace. There is no dishonor in that calculation, though the Party should rightly feel the sting of missed opportunity.

As it stands, a couple of basic facts are inescapable.  In a Caucus of five, the four that are not leader are unhappy and want the leadership to step down.  Two Members have flinched.  Two are unyielding. 

Had Ms. Michaels ‘offered’ to resign, in the interest of the Party, her admirers may have refused to accept and lauded her selflessness.

On Saturday she indicated that she would ask the Executive to conduct a Leadership review at the Party's next convention.   In so doing Ms. Michael has only invited disunity and mistrust to fester for another full year.  This Caucus, already a spent force, will not last that long.  She compounds an earlier bad decision.  

Should she step down now? 

The promise of the NDP evaporated one week ago.   

The question is now passé.