Tuesday, June 02, 2009

On united efforts

Meanwhile, James Wood reports on the theory that the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race might lead to divisions within the party. But try as Wood might to make a story out of supposed dissension, the leadership candidates themselves are sending exactly the right signals:
But his absence from provincial politics to work in Alberta and his support in the past for nuclear power development had already made him a polarizing figure for some New Democrats before the membership storm broke.

Lingenfelter said in the final days of a tough leadership race, there is "a sense this thing can never be brought back together," but he pointed to the Obama-Clinton battle for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination as proof even the deepest cuts can be mended.

"After a couple of weeks, everybody got back together and did what they had to do to beat the Republicans and I just know that's what's going to happen in this campaign regardless of who wins," said Lingenfelter, who noted the first job of any new leader involves reaching out to those party members who didn't support him or her.

Meili, a political newcomer who has likely been the biggest surprise in the race -- both he and Lingenfelter peg him at second place on the convention's first ballot -- echoed Lingenfelter's comments about the party coming together while at the same time getting in a swipe at the former deputy premier.

"Honestly, there will be work to be done. I do feel that unless we make a clear break from that sort of political practice and unless we are putting forward a really positive, ideas-based, inspiring platform, it will be very hard to unify the party. However, I think that's what we're going to do. I think I've got a very good chance of being the leader. I think whoever the leader is, the NDP will come together around that leader because we have to," he said.

Ironically, Pedersen, who has been most publicly at odds with Lingenfelter, downplayed the significance of bad blood in the leadership race.

Pedersen, who describes himself as a "democratic socialist," said splits in the party are nothing new and there are bigger issues to deal with.

"I don't think it's a choice of values or age or anything like that . . . I think what it is, it's a choice of direction and this party has to decide whether we're going to be a party of small-l liberals or whether we're going to be a democratic socialist party. To me, that's the big division or big question of principle and direction underscoring this race."
A couple of other points from Wood's article are also worth highlighting. Like Wheatsheaf, Wood takes a look at the theory that Deb Higgins might come out of the race as a compromise choice. But it's hard to see that as a likely outcome if Meili is indeed in second place - and the acknowledgment from Lingenfelter's camp to that effect would seem to offer a fairly strong hint as to how the candidates are currently positioned.

Finally, the report that 44 per cent of the 13,000 total possible votes are already in might serve to make any developments this week far less significant than they might be otherwise: there may not be many people left to vote based on what happens at the convention. I'd be particularly interested to see if there's any breakdown as to what format members have used for their votes, but we'll find out before long whether the heavy early voting favours any one candidate.

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