Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It is do or die for the NB NDP

Friends, my earlier prediction of ultimate doom for the NDP may have to be revised. My thesis included a proviso that doom would come "unless there is a change in leadership". Ladies and gentlemen, there has been a change in leadership.

Allison Brewer has resigned.

First, though I have tried to be fair to Brewer, I have no choice but to take a few parting shots at her because of the way she has stepped down.

After claiming that they "won" the election despite the worst showing virtually ever for the NDP and then stating the nonsense that 5% of the popular vote is not really worse than 10% of the popular vote and saying she would not resign, she has.

No one would blame her for saying that she had said she wouldn't step down while she considered her options but then decided it was the best course. Instead she gives some sob story about how "she can't afford" to be NDP leader because there is no salary and hopes that she "doesn't have to leave the province" to find work. She then goes on to say how the next leader must be bilingual and also be absent of her other flaws.

So which is it? The leader has to be something she is not, or she can't be leader due to financial circumstances? When she ran for the leadership she knew that the party would never be able to pay her a salary so, if she was to ever get paid she'd need to win a seat. On September 18 she didn't win a seat. Thus, it should not have been a matter of her waking up two months later and thinking, all of a sudden, "holy shit, I haven't been getting a pay cheque!"

Methinks that the pressure was building for her to step down and that this is a cop out.

Any way, end of rant.

Free advice for the NDP

Don't elect Yvon Godin as your leader. Yes he has name recognition and political experience and yes he has had a great deal of electoral success in the Northeast but an impressive resume does not an impressive leader make. Please see examples of Stockwell Day and to a lesser extent Paul Martin, both of whom were heralded as the future of their respective parties and led them to certain doom.

Here are the problems with Godin as leader:

  • His victories in Acadie-Bathurst are not provincially transferable: Godin could probably win a seat for himself but his coattails would not be that long. The voters in the Northeast are dependent on government and provinical politics is too parochial to risk electing a distant third place party to the legislature. They used to have a similar view on federal politics but when the minister responsible for cutting EI was their own MP, it was time to put the boots to him and Godin, a successful champion of EI, has been re-elected ever since.

  • His in not bilingual: His English may or may not be better than Allison Brewer's French, but it is not very good. I have had a very hard time understanding him in English, and this is bad news for the NDP as I think their prime areas of growth are not the North. This follows in my next point.

  • He will not play well in areas of NDP strength: The NDP's base is in Saint John. Period. Many argue that the North holds the key to the NDP's future because of Godin's success there but I do not believe that that is the case. The NDP has always been strongest in Saint John and has had consistent strength in Saint John. This was not just the Elizabeth Weir factor, it was true before her leadership as well. Several ridings, particularly Saint John Harbour and Saint John East, are dream NDP seats and should be strongholds regardless of tides. There are other seats, such as Saint John Lancaster and maybe Fredericton-Silverwood where the NDP should be a serious contender. Godin will not play well in these areas.

What the NDP needs may not be out there, but they need a non-abrassive, non-controversial leader with tremendous energy and charisma who speaks effortless English and is fluent in French. With a leader like this, they could position themselves to win up to 5 seats in any election and build from there. This leader could have been Elizabeth Weir, but an analysis of her campaigns seems to show she preferred failure. When a certain region went well for her in election A, she would ignore it in election B rather than concentrate on building on the strength. Why? She liked being the only NDP member, she knew she could never be premier or even opposition leader so why build a small third party caucus when she could be the whole show. The next leader must be selfless and avoid this.

Some may argue that the NDP should go with Godin and make a hard target for the north, but that is not realistic. There were blips in Dalhousie-Restigouche East in 1995 (34.7%) and Nepisiguit in 1999 (27.8%) but those were due to unusual external circumstances and not reflective of a consistent or even repeatable trend. The North will try to be with the government unless the government screws them. Considering that almost half of Shawn Graham's caucus is from the north, the screwing is unlikely to have happened in time for 2010.

Saint John however is fickle. It is almost all Liberal and as a result will be ripe for the picking for either the Tories or the NDP in 2010. With the proper strategy, the NDP could win 2 to 4 Saint John seats with relative ease in 2010. That is where they must focus.


Anonymous said...

You make some good points, especially about Godin. I think he has the same thing going in the north that Weir did in the south - essentially a cult of personality. I agree that his provincial credentials are considerably less than in his own area and I don't think he would have the broad appeal.

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scott said...

Please see examples of Stockwell Day and to a lesser extent Paul Martin, both of whom were heralded as the future of their respective parties and led them to certain doom.

Stockwell Day upset the party stalwart, in Preston Manning, to become leader of the Alliance and Paul Martin [and the board] undermined many Chretien loyalist in order to be top dog. As Harper would ultimately tell you, having a united party behind you when you are fighting a party that has internal strife is key.

That is why I don't see that as a problem for Godin as he would hopefully have the full support of a fledgling NDP party. And he would be following a leader, in Brewer, that was a bigtime flop with her party and the electorate.

In my opinion, that is a winning formula for Yvon Godin, nbpolitico.