Monday, May 29, 2006

NDP Convention - Aftermath

My congratulations to Lorraine Michael on her romp to the NDP leadership. 107 to 5 is a margin of victory which would be envied by any politico.

Now on to the reality check.

First . . . According to the NDP website:

"The Provincial Executive has waived the requirements for Membership under Article 10, Section 3, subsection e for delegates from District Associations; and has decided that where no District Associations exists, the first ten (10) members who register from that District will be seated as delegates from their respective districts."

So, any NDP member where there was no district association (a very good few, I bet) could have flown, walked, driven, crawled to the convention and be entitled to a vote. In theory this means that up to 480 delegates (not including any ex officios or any other voting delegates) were eligible cast a ballot. In the end, only 112 bothered to.

That should be seriously disheartening to all those who fancy the idea of the NDP becoming the opposition, let alone taking the government.

Second . . . Jack Harris' farewell speech and closing advice to the party he "led" for 14 or so years was enlightening. He advised (wait for it) more fundraising and more organizing on the district level. That's pretty solid advice. Sorta makes you wonder what his professional priorities have been for the last decade and a half.

Third . . . Listening to Ms. Michael's interview with CBC this morning, it seems like she is more than ready to follow in the footsteps of her predecessor in passing on responsibility for grassroots organizing to others. She mentioned that the party was ready to go forward and was pleased with the appointment of Rick Boland in executing that role. Meanwhile, she is going to be busy doing other things. "Leader" things, I suppose. But of course she will be at the beck and call and ready to appear wherever the executive wanted her to.

Now I've already braised Mr. Harris for doing exactly that and now it seems that Ms. Michael sees no downside to her do that too.

At the end of the day, if the NDP wants to be a real political party that wants to be taken seriously as a political party, it really has to start acting less like a conscience and more like a political party.

More specifically, it absolutely positively has to cut it's ties from the labour movement. As inconvenient as it might be, the rest of the world views that labour connection as a millstone to the party and an impediment to broader support and not any kind of organisational leg up.

Party leaders need to act as party leaders and understand that the buck stops at their desk and that they have to be intimately involved with critical issues of organization and finance and not just the sexy soft policy stuff which NDP leaders and party officials love so much.

The party itself has to be organized around the goals and objectives of a political party. It has to organize real political campaigns which are NOT the same thing as the sort of union-run "awareness-raising" style campaigns that it's been wedded to up till now.*

The NDP, above all other local parties, have traditionally prided themselves as a group with more experience in "campaigns" of all kinds than any others. The reality is very different and the party refuses to learn and adapt from it's mistakes.

It's easy for the NDP and it's members to disdain the messier aspects of politics as practiced by the other parties in the province. That attitude will assure Ms. Michael a spectator seat in the House of Assembly galleries for many years to come.

* In the last federal campaign one member of the local media who was naturally sympathetic to the NDP told me that "they couldn't run a fax machine" let alone a campaign.

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