Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chaos in the NL NDP

Oh, how things change. Two years ago, the Newfoundland and Labrador New Democrats were riding high in a provincial election, surpassing the Liberals in the race for second, at least among the wider electorate; yes, they failed to win more seats, but in this day and age people realize the injustice of the system and the feat the NDP accomplished. Even if they didn't become the Opposition in the House, they managed their best seat count ever with five elected members, the previous record being two. Four of the five were elected in St. John's, where the NDP were the indisputable opposition to the governing PCs, as the Liberals collapsed into oblivion in the province's largest city. As Kathy Dunderdale's government trundled on from one disappoint to the next, the NDP rose in the polls and there seemed a very bright future ahead of them - maybe even government! What a glorious orange revolution it shall be.

However, recent events are starting to point to 2011 being the climax of the NL NDP's story, not the beginning of their upwards climb. The previously moribund Liberals have become re-invigorated, posting a huge number of voters in their upcoming leadership race, alongside a similar rise in the polls. The NDP lost two of their chances to try and usurp the Liberals as the Official Opposition, failing to win in the Cartwright-L'Anse-au-Clair and unable to convince former Tory cabinet member Tom Osborne to join up with them rather than the Liberals. Despite all their momentum, they continued to languish as the third party.

Then this bundle of WTF happened. The four new MHAs (elected in 2011 on the back of the work done by their leader) sent an e-mail to Lorraine Michael that they wanted a leadership review to be called. This was apparently out of the blue, according to Michael, and caused a small media sensation. Two of the MHAs - Gerry Reid and George Murphy - ended up backtracking a bit as they said they "regretted" the way it was handled, but the other two - Christopher Mitchelmore and Dale Kirby - decided to quit the caucus today and sit as independents, rather that continue to live under the oppression of Michael, a 70-year old former nun.

It is clear that Michael is not the next generation of leadership, and that her political skills are at best shaky, at worst she's just very lucky she became leader following the Orange Wave federally. Once the small caucus started to run into rough patches, Michael couldn't keep it together. Now her party is divided and her prospects just a tad cloudy. Even if she does win the upcoming leadership review, it isn't going to mend the bridges that have been set ablaze within her party. At this point, its questionable whether a new leader would do any better.

We'll see what happens, but for now the NDP are going to suffer, just as the similarly infighting PEI Tories have, dropping to third behind their local NDP. Meanwhile the Liberals will continue to yuck it up at their expense. And why not? The NL Liberals have gone through their troubled times and come out the other side still intact, and are now reaping the rewards as the PC government fumbles about. Even Dunderdale is probably smiling a bit.

Good job NDP, once again you've defeated yourselves.


  1. Man, I knew the PEI PC Party had... oh wait, this is about a different party. Sorry I was confused because the stories are so similar in many ways :P

  2. As for how this will turn out.

    Presuming Michael wins the review, which is possible and, now, likely I think; or, presuming that a Michael ally follows her as party leader:
    Kirby is dead meat. He's a nobody and unless he joins the Liberals there is no way he will be re-elected, and even if he is a Liberal, he may not win.
    Mitchelmore however will win. He won his seat based on who he is and not his party. He could win re-election from any party or as an Independent even, but more on that later.

    So what if they get their way and Michael goes before the year is out? She'd need to resign her seat too, in order to placate the rebels. If somebody who is neutral or, pro-Kirby (who has been the driving force) wins the leadership, the caucus would get back together. They could manage to have everyone re-elected, and even win the by-election for Michael's seat (formerly the seat of Jack Harris). One way this could happen is if Harris goes back to provincial politics; but seeing the polls, he'd be foolish to do so.

    So what about Michelmore? It is important to remember why he got elected. Not because of his party, but because of who he is. He is personally popular. If he runs as an NDPer in the next election, he would almost certainly be re-elected. If he runs as an Independent, he would probably be re-elected with a larger vote share. If he decided to go bonkers and run as a tory, he'd still be re-elected; and frankly, if he ran as a Green in this, the most anti-Green province, he would still manage to be elected.
    ...But, he would get the highest vote total by being re-elected not as any of those; but as a Liberal.

    I suspect that he may be using this as an excuse to make the move. He may know the Liberals are going to be elected in 2015 and if he is smart, he's already put out feelers. If I was in his shoes I'd certainly consider a move, especially if I could get some kind of Jr. Cabinet position out of it.