Sunday, January 17, 2016

On organization

Given some of the odd twists and turns in Paul Wells' latest piece on Tom Mulcair's future, I'm hesitant to give too much credence to his unnamed sources. But to the extent it's accurate, Wells' take on the lack of much organization on any side of a leadership vote seems fairly important:
Back to my first anonymous source. “There are a few angry, angry, angry people,” this person said, “who I would say are concentrated among the MPs. They’re pinning everything on Mulcair.” This person thinks it’s harsh to blame Mulcair entirely for the loss of 51 seats last October. Justin Trudeau also had something to do with it.

“But I would say there’s a growing consensus that Mulcair needs to step aside,” this person continued. “But there’s no organizing or campaigning going on.”

The constitutionally mandated leadership review after an election is a simple matter. Delegates to a national convention vote on whether there should be a new leadership convention. In any party, dissatisfaction with the leader is unlikely to crystallize unless there’s a present and available alternative.
Maybe Mulcair will launch his charm offensive when the House returns at the end of January. Maybe he has no need to charm anyone. With no credible replacement, his opponents may well fold their tents. That’s not an ideal campaign slogan for 2019, but you make do with what you’ve got.
Now, I'd disagree with the theory that any new leadership vote would be predicated on there being some obvious successor waiting in the wings. But even if any leadership campaign could wait until later, the "organizing" side is rather important.

If there were indeed a broad consensus as to the need for a new leadership contest, we'd expect it to be relatively easy for somebody to build some structure around that position. Conversely, if it's true that no substantial organizing is happening around the leadership vote, that would tend to signal that complaints about Mulcair are better classified as meaningless backseat driving, rather than a significant rallying point.

Of course, I've pointed out that some of the most important questions about Mulcair himself revolve around his fit to lead a movement-based party rather than a government-in-waiting. And I'm certainly hoping we'll see some more visible steps in that direction in the near future - whether or not they're seen as responding to a leadership challenge.

But if the most important potential weakness on Mulcair's part applies even more strongly to anybody trying to oust him, that hardly serves as an impetus for change.


  1. Hey Greg,
    In light of where your "Movements and Moments' piece concluded, how do you respond to this bit from Wells' piece?

    'With three months to secure his job, Mulcair should be making friends as fast as he can. How’s that going? “He’s not romancing anyone, that’s for sure,” my chattiest source said. “The most natural constituency is his caucus. And he’s being a dick [to them].” How so? “We had a big caucus after 2011, and the organization was pretty hierarchical. Now it’s far smaller, but he’s still doing that hierarchical thing. Not asking for opinions. Still having that small circle around him. Not treating you like you matter.”'

    1. I'd definitely see that as a problem if true and broadly applicable. But there are a couple of caveats.

      First, there's a need to focus on more than just the caucus in any event. It's one thing if there's no effort in increase outreach at either the caucus or grassroots level, as that would reflect exactly the wrong response to the election result. But there's more of a focus on the latter than the former, that could be a positive development - yet could lead to those types of comments from MPs who want more attention.

      And second, I'd treat particularly chatty and catty anonymous sources with due skepticism.