Friday, December 15, 2006

Politics is harder than it looks: See Rona Ambrose

Consider this: you are a brand-spanking new, and risk-averse, Prime Minister and you want to craft a safe and reliable cabinet. You look around your MPs and your eye spys Rona Ambrose.

A perfect candidate, you would think. She's a former senior official with the Alberta provincial government, an academic with a working background in policy development related to privacy, electronic government, health and the environment. She's also an experienced MP (compared to many) having first been elected in 2004.

She's young (37), sharp, articulate, knowledgeable in both policy and politics. What more can you ask for in a federal minister of the crown tasked with stick handling a tricky and complex issue like the environment?

Well, clearly more than she has at her disposal. Since her appointment, it's been one public gaffe, misstatement and error after another. She has gone from political golden child to besieged and struggling minister on a political deathwatch.

As Jeffery Simpson notes today, it hasn't been all her fault. She has a Prime Minister and caucus who don't believe in the import or science of basic environment issues (global warming) and she has suffered from a revolving door of senior staff around her.

But many other politicians who have been thrust in her position have prevailed and prospered. So what's the difference between those who sink to the button of the lake and those who swim to the other side?

I don't know and I don't think anybody really does. You can read literally tons of material from leadership "experts" or political scientists or what have you and still not figure it out.

In the end, a schmo like Stockwell Day does a creditable job in a senior portfolio surprising all those who expected him to implode on the way out of the swearing-in and a capable political star like Rona Ambrose flounders.

Today, while media reports speculate about the demise of Ambrose, Day is deftly juggling controversial and difficult issues and is looking secure and pretty.

In the end, the saga of Rona Ambrose is a salutory lesson for those political wannabes - politics is a profession that is hard to master and harder than it looks with no sure path or indicators to success.

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