--> Getting It Right: Staunching the Flow

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Staunching the Flow

Political success by a party leader can be achieved with a few key attributes, which are easy enough to write about, but far more difficult to actually deliver.

Carole James, the NDP head-boss under whose tenure the NDP have slipped back down to popularity levels not seen since before the last election, has struggled with leadership, team-building, vision-setting and adaptability.

In this week’s Ipsos-Reid poll, the popularity of the party has sunk even further to 32%, almost 20% behind that of the governing BC Liberals. Let’s not forget there was a time, just about three year ago, when observers predicted a return of the NDP, phoenix-like from the ashes of the humiliating election of 2001.

The numbers also show, more importantly, that James’ personal approval has slipped 18% from her all time high to 51%, and now sits just two points behind that of the Premier.

While two points doesn’t sound like much, it is unheard of for the Opposition Leader to trail the governing Leader in this regard. The Premier of the province does tough work, regardless of political stripe, and has to make decisions that turn people off his party and his person.

In one respect, there are issues beyond her control that make it very difficult for her to push an NDP agenda, if in fact there is one. The economy is booming and that success has been linked in voter’s minds to the 2001 dismissal of the NDP from government and the turn-around seen since.

That being said, there are gaps in government policy in Victoria big enough to drive a truck through– there always is. And NDP members can see these and cannot understand why their leader can’t focus her team on the short-comings of the government.

After being elected to bring a new, kinder, gentler face to the NDP, she has been slow to learn that politics isn’t the same as the sandbox, and that people desire decisiveness and action – they want to feel protected and cared for in a primeval sense by their leaders. If the storm comes or the army invades, they want to know that the leadership will be on the front line brandishing the biggest sword.

Unfortunately James’ team doesn’t see the problem that way, and she is further hampered because she won’t rein in her caucus who, in fighting for their own political lives, are firing randomly on issues, like road potholes, which do little to help build that sense of a team working together.

The piranhas are happy to circle after sensing the blood from flesh wounds. James doesn’t have much time left to bandage the cuts before she will be turn apart from her own team.

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