24 Hours: Swiftness of Carole James’ departure a surprise

Oops. How'd that happen? Kwan ends James' political career – photo: Vancouver Sun

The following article ran last Tuesday, Dec. 7th in 24 Hours newspaper, the morning after Carole James announced she was stepping down as leader of the BC NDP. It preceded the announcement on Wednesday of Christy Clark as the latest BC Liberal leadership candidate.

Just a day after Gordon Campbell’s November 3rd resignation as B.C. Premier, while everyone else was talking about the future of the BC Liberal Party, I predicted in this paper that Carole James’ career as NDP leader was over.

However, even I am stunned by the swiftness of her demise, barely one month later.

Both James and Campbell stubbornly held on to the top spots despite growing criticism within their own ranks. And each leader left after that chorus grew too loud to ignore, arguing that the survival of their party trumped their need to be boss.

James’ departure was decidedly less graceful than Campbell’s. As she spoke to media on Monday she openly described how she was pushed out of her job. Carole said that she had enough of being stabbed in the back, and in essence told party dissidents to clean up the mess without her.

Compare this to what’s currently happening with the BC Liberal leadership race. Four pretty good candidates in the contest including a woman, and a fifth high-profile candidate – another woman – stepping into the fray this week. We’ve also heard that recent polls are showing the BC Liberals and NDP almost neck and neck.

Any political historian will tell you that divided parties rarely recover well enough to win elections. In British Columbia we had the Social Credit Party collapse under the weight of scandal surrounding then Premier Bill Vander Zalm. In Vancouver we saw Peter Ladner turn his back on Sam Sullivan and kill the NPA’s re-election chances.

On the federal scene we’ve seen the Liberal Party of Canada struggle since a fight broke out between supporters of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. There are countless examples where the lack of party unity spells the end of political fortunes.

There are nearly three months to go before the BC Liberals pick a new leader, and it’s going to be a tough battle. Everyone knows that the coalition of centre-right Liberals and Conservatives has to hold together behind a new leader in order to win the next election. There’s a risk that won’t happen.

As for the NDP, the choices are not so clear who might lead them into another election. The names of Mike Farnworth, John Horgan, Derek Corrigan, Jenny Kwan and Gregor Robertson are all being discussed, but who can really pull that deeply divided party back together?

Crazy times indeed, but I think most of us are focused on Christmas parties right now, not political ones.

- post by Mike

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