Statement could be “beginning of the end” for NDP leader, says political scientist

A sharply critical statement of the leadership of the B.C. NDP could spell the “beginning of the end” for Carole James, according to political scientist Norman Ruff.

“If it’s not the end, it could well be the beginning of the end,” said Ruff, of the letter released by MLA Jenny Kwan today (December 1) calling for a leadership convention.

“Jenny Kwan is a person of considerable stature within the party,” Ruff told the Straight by phone. “Carole James is in a very difficult position.”

Ruff doesn’t predict Kwan will get the same treatment as MLA Bob Simpson, who was kicked out of caucus on October 6 after he criticized James’ leadership on a Williams Lake website.

“I don’t think there can be a unilateral dismissal of Kwan,” he said.

Ruff said James should bring caucus together and offer to resign in order to get a sense of the level of support among MLAs.

“That will flush out the depth of her support,” he said. “If major spokespeople aren’t running to her support, she has no option but to resign.”

Harry Lali, the MLA for Fraser-Nicola, supported Kwan’s call for a leadership convention, but declined to comment on her criticism of James.

“I’m not interested in saying whether the present leader should go or should stay - I am interested in a leadership convention,” he said. “Whoever the new leader happens to be, I think every New Democrat has to then fall in line, shut up and get on with the job – that can only happen after a leadership convention.”

He said Kwan has become an “icon” in NDP circles in B.C. and that her statement will be noticed among supporters.

“When an NDP icon such as Jenny Kwan speaks out in the way that she did, then New Democrats across the province have to listen,” he said.

Ruff said Kwan’s statement has articulated the “unease” with James’ leadership recently alluded to by other MLAs.

“Up until Simpson’s firing, people were aware that James didn’t have a strong connection with the electorate...but the last few months there seems to be this autocratic style that seems to have emerged more, and this is what really has led to the deep unease with her leadership,” he said.

Ruff said the NDP will need more than a leadership change to re-connect with potential voters.

“It’s become a party that just defines itself as not being the Liberal government and that’s not enough,” said Ruff.

“If they think changing their leader will resolve everything in the party, I think they’re being quite foolish.”

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Voice of Reason

Dec 1, 2010 at 7:24pm

It is way past time for James to go. We need a real leader who will take stands and fight for them, not someone who no one knows if they stand for anything.


Dec 1, 2010 at 9:02pm

Telling that there has been no response from Carole yet. Or should I say Moe (now one and the same).

What I see is Jenny and Bob sacrificing themselves to save all of us from Moe Sihota.

Donald Blake

Dec 1, 2010 at 9:34pm

Jenny Kwan is an "icon" in NDP circles? Really? Wow. I certainly hope that is just a bit of hyperbole and is not actually true.


Dec 1, 2010 at 10:27pm

Jenny Kwan has just assured another Liberal government.

Seriously, if James quit tomorrow and Bob Simpson, or Jenny herself, took over the same s$%t would continue in the NDP. It's really clear that they're just not fit to govern. I wouldn't leave my kid with this collection of clowns much less let them run a province.

The BC Liberals are evil incarnate but at least they understand unity, solidarity and - hate to say it - competence.

How depressing.


Dec 2, 2010 at 12:20pm

You sad it rudy, the reason why the NDP have never governed long is because the NDP are terrible and incompetent. They still have Moe as the president what does that say about them....


Dec 2, 2010 at 5:50pm

You see, that's the problem with not only the NDP, but the whole canadian political system. "...every new democrat then HAS to fall in line, shut up - and get on with the job." The leaders and viewpoints of the political parties aren't the viewpoints of the people - just the few who bother to spend their lives in a political party. How does anything ever get decided if you can't disagree with someone??? Telling people to "shut up" and toe the party line no matter how ridiculous it is does nothing to further the good of the canadian public. Politics is about give and take in public discussion, not ramming things down peoples throats like Mayor what's his name. Yeah, I know Mayor hypocrite isn't in the NDP, I'm just pointing out that the problem is the same across the spectrum.