Holman: "Defeat was inevitable in neither circumstance."

In the politeness that follows defeat, demands for provincial New Democrat leader Carole James to resign will be kept out of the headlines - at least for the time being. Nevertheless, this is the second election in a row the party has lost, despite the Campbell administration's strong negatives. And the party's failure to effectively exploit those negatives - and present British Columbians with a compelling campaign narrative - is cause for the New Democrats to reassess the party's leadership and its approach to politics over the past six years.

Defeat was inevitable in neither circumstance. In 2005, the New Democrat went from three seats in the legislature to 33. But, given the Campbell administration's first term cutbacks, it's conceivable that seat count could have been higher - despite the disaster that befell the party in 2001.

As for this election, the Liberals were dogged by friends and insiders allegations in the months leading up to the writ being dropped. And the Campbell administration's claim to being the province's best economic manager became assailable as Statistics Canada released numbers showing British Columbia's economy is in worse shape than the Liberals had forecasted in their most recent budget.

But the New Democrats didn't drive those numbers. They mishandled the friends and insiders allegations. And their mushy middle election platform gave New Democrat candidates little to talk about on the campaign trail - with most of the major planks having been rolled out before the writ was dropped.

Of course, that's not to say the Liberals campaign was much better. It was just better than the New Democrats. And that was enough to win the incumbents a third term in government.

12 Comments

I think what happened is there's a silent (not getting media attention) majority of people who, while not really finding the Liberal ethics to their personal taste, would just like some stability in life, so they voted *against* a change of leadership as opposed to voting *for* a particular ideology or party.

The low turnout and close races certainly indicate that none of the offerings was seen as particularly inspiring.

I'd say both parties have a lot of work cut out for them when they spend millions and still can't generate as much public interest as a professional hockey team.

Dear Santa,

All I want for xmas is a credible leader who is able to DO SOMETHING, a leader that will represent the wishes of the populace. A leader who knows how to tell the truth and keep promises. A leader who knows how to grab a tiger by the tail. A leader that people are willing to follow because they want to, not because they've been bullied into it. A leader who doesn't mince words or pander. A leader with strength of character to carry out a vision. A leader that will do more good than harm. A leader that will act for what's best for ALL the people of this province, not just big business or special interest groups.

Thank you
Victoria

ps - a leader who can avoid scandal would also be great, but this is BC, so I realize that may be impossible.

I think next time the NDP needs to go after the electorate which doesn't vote. This is where Obama was successful. The trick will be finding issues which will do this.
The NDP needs to start campaigning now. The concerns of 42% of the province did not disapear overnight the fight must continue.
They also need to do a better job of getting media attention. I think the fixed election date is causing voters to feel election campaigns never end. The NDP needs to campaign all the time and so do its supporters.
It seems progressive parties need to have a charasmatic leader to overcome the conservative "fiscally reasponsible" label. NDP party members should think about this the next time they pick a leader.

When you consider history, the NDP have rarely held power in BC. Carole James led the party from complete decimation to forming a powerful opposition and gaining seats in this election. I'm not sure that is a damning indictment. I do however think that the NDP failed to paint a compelling picture of an alternate future – hence the unwillingness of voters to ditch the liberals. If I were the NDP, I would hesitate to ditch Carole James. Instead I’d take a good hard look at my policy and strategy advisors who seem to lack the ability to keep up with the times and failed to see the party in a fresh light. Their policy positions seemed tired and old – time to shake up the hangers-on and see what Carole can do with a new team.

It's very clear that whenever some progressive individual within the NDP suggests moving away from their traditional roots of antiquated ideologies (such as labour first, minimum wage, welfare increases, gender equality mandates for would be candidates) they get pulled back. It puts off those of us in the middle of spectrum who would be willing to cast a vote in a different direction. Until the NDP becomes a modern party with new ideas and be willing to abandon old philosophies, they will exist as opposition only.

Vera QW I agree with your points. I would add that the NDP needs an extreme media makeover. They are NOT in the public eye (pun unintentional) They are not getting ANY press at all. Certainly not compared to the other parties.

I raised this question to the NDP and was told by a campaign manager 'well what can we do?' followed by a shrug.

That is a atrocious response and indicative of the problem.

I really had to struggle to find a compelling reason to vote NDP.

The NDP hasn't had a decent new idea since the early years of the Harcourt government. Like a lot of people who voted for the NDP this election, I was motivated more by a desire to stop the insider business deals of the Campbell crowd than anything the NDP said -- and no one I knew was the least bit excited by the NDP campaign either. Raise the minimum wage? Open some closed seniors' homes? Okay, but what else ya got, and how does it speak to me?

The NDP needs a fundamental re-think, and that includes clearing out many of the longtime hacks. They've provided good service, but their day has passed. Otherwise, the NDP is simply a perpetual opposition party. We need better.

I'm with Dale way upthread.

The underdog, in terms of money and media 'support' (or more 'legitimacy if you perfer) cannot build momentum in 28 days...They need to get out ahead with a grassroots effort way ahead of time....And with fixed election dates in B.C. that can be done...And it can be done by pushing a real (ie. not just a twitter) online presence that fosters community and, more importantly, action.

(and from the Holman perspective, it would also allow that underdog to tell better stories, on their own terms without the need for capturing the eye of that media that has a hard time legitimizing them because they are not the front-runner).

I'm very disappointed by the results of last night, but I disagree that Carole was the problem. She was unstoppable on the campaign trail, and she gets better every time I hear her speak. If hard work were what earns a win in an election, she would be the first ever woman elected BC Premier today.

I think that the ideas expressed here, like a "media makeover" are difficult for the party members to accept. Perhaps it's the cognitive dissidence in me, but it's hard to accept this as our mistake. We're a People's party. We are not a high finance gang, so the "makeover" would have to be given as a gift from the young, more tech-savvy membership. And we can't do that, until we rebuild the membership with all those non-voting 20, 30, and 40-somethings out there. Not an easy task!

They need to somehow grasp that they can't wait for electoral reform to provide them with a party and leader they can follow to the polls. They need to PARTICIPATE at building that party. The NDP is only as modern, exciting, inspiring, and (add whatever other necessary enticing adjective here) as it's membership.

Don't blame the policy and political hacks. They just worked their hearts out, and lost.

I think Elections BC has got to pull off a campaign to convince the under-54 age group that it's their job to participate in democracy. Stop despairing that STV isn't going to bring you the civility and cooperation in politics like you had hoped! Join a party and help make it what you envision!

Great comments above - I agree with many of them. If as voters we want a credible alternative to the status quo, then I think we will have to come out and build it ourselves vs. expecting some powers-that-be to deliver it to us on a platter. That's what prompted me to finally get involved this election and I think that's the message that needs to get out to young voters, disaffected voters and the average people whom you would be building this to serve.

That invitation will be far more attractive if the NDP doesn't do like the GOP in the US and turn ugly and bitter in defeat. There needs to be a very clear sense that those inside and outside the party are open to new ideas and to a soul-searching dialogue that is civil, respectful and open to finding common ground if we want British Columbians to want to engage. There have to be clear principles that resonate and that can be stated unapologetically, and it has to be accountable - with thoughtful policy built around those principles to demonstrate clearly what's being offered, why it's better and that it's not pie in the sky.

The right leadership is critical to such a dialogue, but who should ultimately lead the party in the next election is probably not the key question right now, unless what you're building is a presidential or dictatorial machine. And I don't think you want to rush into considering a leadership change unless there is an obvious alternative waiting in the wings.

Methinks the BC NDP needs to explain a lot, or die off and reform. I mean... what's New or Democratic or a Party about the BC NDP these days?

The NDP also cost itself an election by:

#1. Lying about the negativity of their (personal attack) ads, inflaming the BC Liberal base. Not to mention Bill Good of CKNW & CTV.

#2. The infamous "Resist 2010 ..." pic inflaming sports fans.

#3. Inflaming the Green vote by being anti-carbon tax shift that Sightline and other green think tanks support.

#4. Inflaming business by zero consultation before proposing a hard-left agenda that would punish business.

#5. Inflaming most NDP supporters with a policy premise of just one tune: ANYBODY BUT GORDON CAMPBELL.

No wonder the BC Libs won. Not to mention a great leader with great personality, great relationship with business/employers, great party loyalty, great Olympics bid and a great caucus.

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