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She Had to Go

Carole James' resignation was inevitable after NDP's 2009 election defeat.

Bill Tieleman 7 Dec

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at [email protected] or visit his blog.

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James admitted election 'lacked focus' but vowed to run again.

"There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare." -- Sun Tzu, military strategist, 544-496 BC

Carole James resigned yesterday but the cause wasn't the recent New Democrat MLA caucus revolt -- it was her defeat in the May 12, 2009 provincial election.

The B.C. NDP leader's second consecutive loss to B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell was fatal to her political future. But she refused to acknowledge that fact until Monday, more than 18 months later.

Unfortunately, James decided not to consult with her caucus or the party before announcing just weeks after her defeat that she would be leader going into the 2013 election.

That set in motion a series of events leading to crisis after crisis until James could no simply longer continue.

Like Gabriel Garcia Marquez' novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold, James' political fate was fixed in advance of the final chapter.

But other post-election events masked that reality.

News the provincial budget deficit was six times larger than Campbell pledged and the surprise imposition of the hated Harmonized Sales Tax just weeks after the vote helped drive the BC Liberals into a disastrous lack of public support.

The sudden guilty plea bargain of former BC Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk and the government's agreement to fund their $6 million defence in the B.C. legislature raid case added more nails to a weighty coffin.

But when Campbell was forced to resign by his own caucus revolt, the reality that an election would likely be held in 2011 under a new BC Liberal premier jolted the NDP awake.

The planned yes/no review of James' leadership at the Nov. 2011 NDP convention was no longer soon enough to deal with lingering doubts that she could win a third election try.

Even when Angus Reid Public Opinion showed the BC Liberals nose diving to 26 per cent support and Campbell's personal approval rating dropping to just 12 per cent, James' own numbers failed to rise, registering only 25 per cent while the NDP was at 47 per cent. That 22 per cent gap, despite being party leader for seven years, was an insurmountable obstacle to winning an election, when leadership is the key question for voters.

And then a Mustel Group poll came out after Campbell's resignation showing the BC Liberals rising from the dead to 37 per cent, just five per cent behind the NDP's 42 per cent -- the same results the party obtained in the 2009 election.Mustel's polling also found James' personal approval has dropped nine per cent since September to 33 per cent, putting her just a point above Campbell's own 32 per cent. And with a new BC Liberal leader -- whether it be Kevin Falcon, George Abbott, Mike de Jong, Moira Stilwell or Christy Clark -- almost forced to call an early election rather than govern for two years without a mandate, James losing again appeared inevitable.

James is a decent person with many talents who has contributed much to public life as a party leader, MLA and before that, a long-time school trustee.

But now the NDP must end internal battles and find a leader who can reinvigorate the party with new ideas and a vision that connects with voters.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Elections

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