Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Let's win the leadership the right way

Yesterday, Michael Ignatieff sent an e-mail out to supporters and others titled “Winning the leadership the right way.” Unfortunately, it seems neither Michael or Bob are taking that spirit to heart.

I'll update things, as the developments on the Liberal leadership front have been fast and furious. Stephane Dion has announced he won't wait until May to resign, but just as soon as a new interim leader is chosen he'll step aside. Dominic LeBlanc has dropped out of the race and endorsed Michael. Both Michael and Bob agree it is desirable to have a permanent leader in place as soon as possible. They just disagree about how to get there.

Unfortunately, the party doesn't seem able to come to agreement on a way to speed-up the leadership process that is constitutionally legitimate. Bob wants one member, one vote now, but that just isn't possible under the current constitution. Also, from a democracy point of view, I'd note delegates at the last convention rejected OMOV. I favour (weighted) OMOV, and will advocate for it an the next convention, but for now, we're stuck with the process democratically selected by the party membership.

There do seem to be ways constitutionally to speed up the delegated process though. A scenario suggested by Jason seems reasonable, and involves advancing the delegate selection meetings to January and then having the delegates immediately vote by phone or the Web for the permanent leader.

As I said though, there seems to be no agreement on such a process currently, leaving us with Rae pushing a constitutionally-void OMOV now and Ignatieff preferring to allow the delegated process, as constitutionally proscribed, continue until May.

Except, the party is now going to pick an interim leader to serve until May:

In this spirit, with respect to its decision to select an interim Leader, the National Executive has chosen to consult broadly with the Party’s constitutional bodies, including Caucus, defeated candidates from the last general election, Council of Presidents, and Commission Club Presidents. Through this process, an interim Leader is expected to be chosen as early as Wednesday, December 17, 2008.

This sounds like a fine process. Generally, an interim leader is just selected by the executive, in consultation with the caucus. So extending the consultation further is a positive, and is constitutionally consistent.

The wrench in the works, however, is that Michael intends to run for interim leader. Now, again, this is perfectly permissible under the rules. He has the right to run for interim leader. But just because it's allowed doesn't make it a good idea. I've already stated clearly for the record that neither leadership candidate should stand for interim leader, and my position hasn't changed.

While there is still a race on with more than one candidate, to have one of them having to campaign against the interim leader isn't acceptable. It gives an enormous advantage to one candidate, opens many cans of worms around decisions such as critic appointments, staff hirings and other decisions by the leader being seen to favour his own supporters, and will only make the post-leadership wounds all the harder to heal.

I'd advise Michael and his people to slow down a little. Now, look, were I a betting man with money to wager on this race, well, let's just say Michael would be a pretty good bet to win. So why lunge hungrily for the interim leader prize, with all the inherent downsides?

The only reasonable argument I've heard is election prep, but surely the party executive and staff can get the process underway in the interim. And both candidates should be working on policy and transition initiatives.

So why not win the right way? In a way that respects the rights of the Liberal membership to have their choice, in a constitutionally-valid process? I know we can win this race, and it would give our new leader a much stronger mandate, with the party all the more behind him.

I'd advise both candidates to do some thinking. Bob needs to stop advocating leadership processes that are constitutionally invalid, and Michael needs to revisit letting his name stand for interim leader. Both need to consider if they're acting in the best interests of the party. And the party needs to find a way to get a leader in place by late January that respects both democracy and the constitution.

At the least, let's advance the delegate selection meetings as far as possible, as early in January as we can. With two candidates, one of them is going to get 50%+1. At that point, the second-place candidate should consider stepping aside for the good of the party, given the extraordinary circumstances and the clearly expressed will of the membership (ironically, it is weighted OMOV to elect the delegates, who must vote for their declared candidate on the first ballot), and allow the winner to sevre as interim leader until its formalized by the convention in May.

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Devo said...


I propose a solution. Check my blog...


Peter Wrightwater said...

"Bob needs to stop advocating leadership processes that are constitutionally invalid"

A consultitive vote (i.e. non-binding) by the LPC rank and file is not unconstitutional, anymore than consulting defeated candidates, riding presidents and club presidents is unconstutional. The final decision still rests in the hands of the party executive to appoint an interim leader.

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

Scott Ross stuck to his ideals & turned against Ignatieff. I warned you. Now which do you choose? I find it hard to believe you didn't see this coming, as a longtime party member. But having tried to justify & equivocate and be the nice guy at the party "hey all, can't we all get along", you are faced with as fundamental a choice as a supposed reform-minded LPC democrat can. Jesuitical justification or adherence to principle. What would PET have thought, or done?

I'll be curious to see what you're made of.

Mark Greenan said...

"we're stuck with the process democratically selected by the party membership"

Actually Jeff, wasn't the process selected by leadership convention delegates? There's a big difference between delegates and the "party membership".

Indeed, I would say there's a particularly relevant selection bias among the first group that ensures they are not representative of the views of the second on the question of leadership selection.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Peter, its all moot now but I believe Bob was proposing omov for the permanent leader, not the interim, or at least that was my understanding.

Euegene, I make no apologies and I hold my head high. Its time for the Liberal Party to unite. Are you going to be part of that, or not? Bob set a very good example today. I'll be curious to see what you're made of.

Mark, while I agree delegates to convention are more likely to prefer a delegated convention, that is the only mechanism I'm aware of for amending the constitution, so we need to work within the process. Because it makes it more difficult to get the result we want isn't an excuse to toss out the rules.

Pearce Richards said...

I've been following this all closely at my blog, and I agree with you Jeff. It wasn't the ideal solution, now is not the time for bickering and infighting.

From my blog today:

If you hate what happened here today, pause for a moment, go have a smoke, do some yoga, have sex, if you can't have sex, masturbate. Do whatever you do to relax. Then, if you are still mad, realize there is more reason than ever to be a Liberal. Renew your membership, donate to the party, and attend the conference where you can vote once again on a One Member, One Vote platform so this doesn't happen again.