Mushy on the mushy middle

It seems the provincial New Democrat leader Carole James' is having some difficulty pronouncing the words moderate and middle. In a scrum at the Victoria-Hillside nomination meeting, CKNW legislative bureau chief Sean Leslie asked Ms. James what city councilor Rob Fleming's victory said about the direction of the party. But Ms. James seemed to have some difficulty answering that question, despite repeated follow-up questions from Public Eye asking specifically whether the victory represented a shift to the moderate middle. She eventually settled on saying the win was a "significant decision by the people of Victoria-Hillside" and describing Mr. Fleming's and her own views as being "balanced."

An insider explained to us Ms. James, who has always been more interested in conciliation than confrontation, couldn't directly say Mr. Fleming's nomination was a moderate victory because she wants to keep the traditionalists within the party onside. Fair enough.

But, going into an election, one wonders whether Ms. James should be worrying less about what her supporters think and more about what British Columbians think. After all, it's going to be a bit difficult for her to convince voters the New Democrats are moving in a moderate direction if Ms. James feels the need to hide behind code words like "balanced" to describe her views - even if all her policies are pointing to the middle. The following is a transcript of the scrum.

***

Media Rob Fleming over no-mushy middle Steve Orcherton, Carole - what does that say about the direction of the party?

Ms. James Well the people in the constituency make the choice, not the leader. But, obviously, Rob's experience - his experience on city council. He's represented this community before. And people saw that as a good strong support. And I'm very pleased that we've got Rob today.

Media But I'm not sure whether that's the answer to the question. I mean, I think the question is whether (Mr. Fleming's election) is representative of a move to the moderate middle or (as some call it) the mushy middle? What do you think about that? I mean, you can say that the voters in this riding made up their mind. But do you think this represents a larger movement within the party?

Ms. James Well, in fact, it may be Steve and others using the mushy middle and the left or right. That's not what I hear British Columbians talking about. They want MLAs who are hard-working, who have shown their experience or represent the community well. And we have that in Rob Fleming today. I've very pleased. And I certainly hope that Steve will get involved and help in the campaign. We're going to need everybody together in this campaign…

Media I'm still not sure whether that's answering the question...

Mr. Fleming Are you calling me mushy?

(Laughter)

Media I ask again. Following up on Sean's question, is this a move to the moderate middle?

Ms. James This was a significant decision by the people of Victoria-Hillside that they wanted a new face to represent them. They wanted to support the values that Rob Fleming put here today. Some people will describe those values as more moderate. Some people will describe them as the middle. I think they're values that I've been putting forward as a leader since last November. They're values that I think New Democrats believe in. And I think they're values that I believe in.

Media And you call those values moderate?

Ms. James I call those values balanced. They're balanced because I think they represent the balance of views out there by British Columbians. People are looking for a party and a government that represents fiscal responsibility, that will balance the budget and that has a social conscience that will support social justice. That's what we're representing. And people get into a debate about what that means. To me, that's a balanced approach. That's a practical, pragmatic approach. And that's the values that I represent and that I've heard Rob represent.

11 Comments

Looks to me like another case of a reporter writing the headline and then going to see what happened.

Although I do not live in the Victoria-Hillside riding I was pleased to see Rob Fleming given the nod to run against Sheila Orr. Steve had his chance and was unsusccesful. A "new" face with "new" ideas was needed and Rob fits the bill.
I want to see the "NEW" DEMOCRAT PARTY win!
As a long standing HEU member I guess I too will be lining up in the "mushy middle" although I do not see myself as either.
To be frank I will line up wherever required or requested to defeat this "FASCIST" crowd now running our province.
Not all HEU members were supportive of Steve!

Nice to see that Rob won. Nice to see that Carol couldn't be pushed into a mushy answer. She wants a balanced party and states so. Good for you Carol

Nice to see that Rob won. Nice to see that Carol couldn't be pushed into a mushy answer. She wants a balanced party and states so. Good for you Carol

So Sean, what would you have rather heard from her? That she wholeheartedly agreed with Leslie's evaluation? That she comletely disagreed with Leslie? Would you rather have heard her stumble and stammer and generally be more media inept? Perhaps you would have preferred that she fled from the mike in awe of the sheer brilliance of the question.

What does the question itself represent? Turnabout being fair play and all. What does it say about Leslie and by extension the major media in BC that the question isn't about what the candidate has to offer the citizens in the riding but about what the nomination represents as regards the party's location on some largely fictitional spectrum?

If Leslie were to ask Campbell whether the nomination of Mary Polak represented the shift of the Liberal party toward the harder christian fundamentalist right, what do you suppose his answer might be? And would you be trying to find a way to wedgie him with it?

The question by Sean and Leslie is a very legitimate one, the answer by Carol James is a very bad one.

The public of BC is clearly in the centre of the spectrum and looking for the party that is closer to the centre. Both the NDP and the Liberals have a mixed record on the type of people that they are putting forward.

It is very legitmate to ask, is Rob Flemming a moderate? Is his nomination an aberation in the NDP or the major flow of the party?

Her inability to answer the question as it was asked shows her inexperience as leader. Clearly she was saying rehearsed lines and not really listening to what medias' questions. This is a trend that we are seeing over and over again in politicos now, get your message out and ignore the questions the media are asking.

Carol James missed her chance to shoot down the image of the NDP as being seriously left wing - she could have said "Of course this is a move to the centre, the NDP I am leading is a pragmatic and moderate party and not the NDP of Glen Clark or Dave Barrett"

The public in BC is cynical enough, they are turned off from politics because of glib non-anwers from leaders. People uner 40 have had so much media messaging thrown at them since birth that the amatuer messaging by politicians does not sink in at all.

It is just as legitimate for the media to asking how can Cindy Silver be calling herself a Liberal? Her views do not sound liberal at all and she does not seem like someone that would be at home in a centre right moderate government.

Hey Fleming must be the right one, even Keith Baldry figures he is the guy. If I got that sort of an endorsement I'd leave town.
BUt then again just like Fleming I'm not in Hillside riding anyway so I should butt out. So I will

After reading the answers to the questions posed I felt that Carol did a fine job.I for one would be far more interested in a party that is advocating balance and pragmatism than simply an obscure and oxymoronic posistion such as the moderate middle.It would seem to me that Carol was quite able to give a concise answer to the direction of her party.Perhaps the real question is if the NDP is occupying the middle will the "Liberals" admit to incorporating a far right fundamentalist agenda with the increasing prominence of neocons like Kevin Falcon,Rich Coleman and the abominable emergence of Mary Polak in her new riding of langley.

There is no doubt that Carol James sounds far to "rehearsed" when being interviewed. She is so concerned about getting mer message out in neatly pre-packaged sentences that she ends of sounding very plastic, and at times downright evasive when media try and pin her down on something she hasn't rehearsed as of yet.

This is a province that likes its politicians with a little fire in their bellies. She needs to loosen up and not be so concerned about making a mistake. When politicians are overly careful it draws even greater attention to what mistakes they do make.

Sometimes you wonder who people are trying to kid, or if they think every BC voter was born yesterday. Take Bernard's contribution for example.

On the one hand, the Govt's of Barrett and Clark were extremist, "seriously left-wing". But Campbell's Govt is "centre right moderate government".

Does Bernard really think this is a credible presentation? Maybe there are some sour grapes one-time NDPers who think that way, such as foot-in-mouth political consultants Bill Barlee and Mike Geoghegan, but no sensible person is going to fall for this kind of silly bugger sophistry.

Objectively the BC Liberals are governing from the centre right - their policies would fit very nicely with federal Liberals.

I fully understand people hate Gordon Campbell and the Liberals have done some major clangers in how they chose to roll out government policy, but I have yet to see anything from the government that could be considered socially conservative or even any neocon economics.

The NDP did have a moderate for a leader - Mike Harcourt. Clark and Barrett have been many things in their lives, but moderates is not one of them.

Parties of the left that are successful these days are ones that embrace private sector, improve the business climate and govern from the centre. One need only need look at Tony Blair, Labour's most successful leader ever.

I find it interesting that Carole James is now calling for tax cuts for foriegn businesses - I would be much happier if she instead agreed that cutting the taxes for the general public was a good idea and offered to cut them more than Campbell.

Leave a comment

Copyright © 2004 - Public Eye Mediaworks. Reproductions of any portion of this Website are permitted only with the expressed permission of Public Eye Mediaworks.
Canadian Web Hosting graciously provided by dotcanuck Web Services. Layout and graphics courtesy of Art Department Design.