Saturday, December 11, 2010

Liberals find bounce back amid political turmoil

Christy Clark's, return to provincial politics is proving to be a timely re-entry .

The former deputy Premier and controversial education minister entered the race for the Liberal leadership this week, providing for one of the highest profiles in the race thus far.

Leaving behind for now the life of a CKNW talk show host, Clark revealed her intentions on Wednesday confirming one of the worst kept secrets around Victoria these days (and there have been a few secrets over the last few weeks) and launched the campaign that she hopes will bring her to the Premiership when the Liberals gather to name the replacement for Gordon Campbell.

And just in time for her debut in the leadership fray comes a new Angus Reid poll that shows a remarkable turn around in Liberal fortunes, as the Liberals, discredited and thought to be on their way to political purgatory not more than two months managed to erase a 21 point deficit, pulling up even with the New Democratic Party in the most recent sampling of public opinion.

It was a turn around in voter  intention that has shocked, Mario Canseco the long time political observer, who thought he had seen it all when the firms recent poll outlined the record low approval numbers for Gordon Campbell the now departing Premier .

For the Premier the latest numbers will provide yet another bit of confirmation as to how unpopular he had become,  with word of his decision to leave clearly finding endorsement from many voters who appear ready to now forgive and forget the Liberals already, and that with just the promise of a replacement in sight.

The results of the poll is rather bad news for the New Democrats, who will be moving into their own leadership campaign in the new year, having lost their commanding lead and now needing to find a replacement leader of their own, one that they hope may begin to try and regain some of the ground suddenly taken from below their feet.

The NDP launched their own bit of political drama in the last two weeks, with leader Carole James tendering her resignation in the wake of a political coup among her caucus, with thirteen MLA's blazing the trail for the dissidents reversing in a few short days the endorsement that James received by and 84 per cent margin at the party's convention in November.

For those that support their efforts, the recent poll could prove to be their answer to those that suggest they have done harm to the party.

Some political commentators share the thoughts of the dissidents, that  Ms. James' number were bound to implode, including the Province's political columnist Michael Smyth who recounts the observations of Canseco that James was not connecting with voters.

Vaughn Palmer on the other hand takes a more measured review of the results and provides what would seem to be a more balanced approach to the numbers, assigning some of the blame for the results on the disharmony within the NDP camp in the last month or so.

The poll providing the Liberals with glad tidings of the season, would seem to suggest that just the promise of a new Liberal leader has sent the NDP's fortunes tumbling, which seems to be at the heart of the dissidents debate.

A valid point, especially considering the electoral results in the last two trips to the polls, however, the visuals of a party in such disarray as to provide for a bloody and very public putsch most likely won't provide any benefits in the short term polls to come.

Ms. James may not have been able to hold her lead of late, but the infighting of the last week has not served the NDP very well, the splits and acrimony among the caucus and the party membership itself perhaps as destructive for the future, as the Premier's resignation proved to be for them in November samplings.

Voters clearly don't like uncertainty, and while the Liberals suddenly look like a political machine again with a few high profile successors lined up, the NDP will spend the holiday season trying to find their way out of their negative publicity cycle.

Their only bit of fortune being that few British Columbians probably want to think about politics over the Christmas and New Years period anyways.

The other side of that thought however being that with the NDP not planning to address their leadership troubles until the New Year, the Liberal contenders have about a four week window now to hammer home their message of change.

Leaving the NDP to try and smooth over the more visible of cracks of their warring factions.

The real bad news from the recent numbers for the NDP is that most of that 21 per cent swing back to the Liberals came from voters who most likely normally align themselves with the party and are now seemingly returning back to their political home.

Having parked their potential votes with the NDP in protest over Premier Campbell, they would appear to be shifting that short term allegiance back to a more traditional spot.

With the Premier soon to be heading off to his political sunset, they are once again finding more comfort in the Liberal future with the prospects of a party led by Christy Clark or George Abbot.

And if another poll, this one on the Liberal contenders is any indication, it's Ms. Clark who should provide for a worst case scenario for the NDP and their hoped for return to governance in British Columbia.

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