The knives are already out for Redford
By Bruce A Stewart
There aren’t many political parties left in the world who select their leaders internally. But perhaps there should be.
The trend has been to “open the process up.” Involve more people, let “the grassroots decide.”
It all sounds good until you realize what the price tag is.
Instant delegates with no connection to the party influencing who gets put in charge.
Multi-round ballots with preferences that lock in the eventual winner in advance (like the last NDP leadership run).
The parties are trying to open the system up, but the eventual winner usually doesn’t have a lot of strength.
It’s become common for the third-place finisher on the first round to make it to leader.
That leaves a lot of people upset that the winner “snuck up the middle.” The knives get sharpened.
Ignatieff’s and Rae’s teams were getting their digs in at Dion right after the 2006 Liberal leadership.
Christy Clark played the instant delegates and won the BC Liberal leadership with no caucus support.
Alison Redford, from third, won the leadership of the Alberta PCs — succeeding Ed Stelmach, who’d done the same.
Is it any wonder that the knives are out for Redford already?
Here we are in the middle of an election campaign, and the balloons are being floated.
“She didn’t listen to our wise counsel.” “There’ll be a fight at the 2013 review even if she pulls off a win.”
That’s the flip side of how we elect leaders today: it’s just as easy to force them out.
The British Conservatives are one of the last parties that don’t do any of this.
Their leaders are selected by the caucus. If the backbenchers lose faith in the leader, they start the process.
This is how Margaret Thatcher fell. But it’s also how she got the job, fifteen years earlier.
Trying to get more people involved, and listening to citizens, isn’t a bad thing.
Finding ways to allow more people to take part — Internet voting, and the like — aren’t bad, either.
But Canadian politics, federal and provincial, turns on the leader now, whether we like it or not.
Leaders, in turn, need caucus support, and back room support. They don’t need defeated factions refusing to lay down weapons.
The older days of conventions, crossing the floor to pledge support, and the like tended to bring the party together.
Think of how Joe Clark and his supporters became loyal supporters of Brian Mulroney once the final vote was done.
Compare that to how many people left NDP headquarters after Thomas Mulcair beat their preferred candidate.
Or how many want to knife Alison Redford while she fights for her party’s life in mid-election.
Or how many in the BC Liberal caucus are ready to dump Christy Clark while there’s still time.
Bruce Stewart is a consultant, educator and philosopher with a passion for public affairs currently located in Toronto. He is well known across the Internet for his blogs on management (Getting Value from IT) and social affairs (Just a Jump to the Left, then a Step to the Right) and for his daily stream of commentary on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.