Throw out a lifeline

John Horgan, now the apparent if not yet quite anointed leader of the BC NDP, says he and his party are now not only fully re-united following the recent cataclysmic fall from grace but are “ready to govern.”

Yes,well, that’s what Adrian Dix thought and convinced mass media to think last May. And the electorate in resounding fashion told he and the pollster-following media they didn’t agree. The voters said we don’t believe you’re ready – and will not believe you’re ready until you show a clearly drawn, affordable, blueprint for stability and progress.

Affordable is the key work. The NDP has penchant for ideas but all too often comes up short on how to pay for them

Dix, commenting on Mike Farnworth dropping out of the leadership to leave Horgan with a lone clear reach for the brass ring said the NDP’s most successful leaders had won their roles by acclamation. And added: “We are strong, our base is strong, all we need is to do some extra things to get over the top.”

Fully recovered from the thrashing he received less than a year ago? I don’t think so, even though he seemed to proudly stressed the NDP has only lost the last three elections, including last years, “narrowly”.

True, but then the NDP in BC (apart from one really calamitous drubbing when Gordon Campbell’s Liberals won all but two seats in the Legislature) has always produced a strong base vote even in the two decades in which they lost every election until 1972 to W.A.C. Bennett’s Socreds

It was Dave Barrett who led the NDP to victory that year, not because the people thought New Democrats ready to govern but because the people thought WAC had lost his touch and were willing to gamble on change. In later years Dave would tell the story of the first cabinet meeting he chaired, opening with:”What the hell do we do now?” and Ernie Hall answered “We frame an agenda.”

And they did, but one which proved too quickly done, too expensive to maintain ,and in less than four years ended. But far more honest and far less arrogant than today’s NDP leaders.

Dave Barrett wasn’t ready to govern, but neither was WAC in his first term. Neither was his son Bill when he took over from Barrett. Mike Harcourt, who became BC’s second NDP Premier after Bill Vander Zalm presided over the collapse of Social Credit, learned on the job and was doing reasonably well until dissidents brought him down.

Horgan, says he’s going to repeat the claim he’s ready to govern every day until election day in 2017, the day he boasts he “will roll over the Liberals”.

Boasting  victory, alas, doesn’t make it so and come election day 2017 the voters will want to see less boasts and firm, as I said earlier in this piece, affordable plans.

Could the withdrawal of Farnworth leaving Horgan the clear run for leader really mean the NDPs internal woes are over, that the old Party stands united and “ready to govern?”

I don’t think so. The NDP is too strong, its party members too faithful to fade away as did the Socreds after Vander Zalm. But it should be careful to whom it looks for restoration. It needs action, not rhetoric. In its present shaken state the Party reminds me of a Charles Laughton line in the movie Witness for the Prosecution when he describes a troubled client as being like “a drowning man clutching at a razor blade.”

New Democrats should make sure the lifeline Horgan claims to be throwing them is sound and free of dangers before they grasp it too tightly.

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