Sunday, June 18, 2017

On interim measures

I haven't yet posted on Trent Wotherspoon's announcement that he's stepping down as the Saskatchewan NDP's interim leader to consider joining the permanent leadership race. But I'll take a moment to note why I hope he'll decide not to follow through on the possibility.

At the outset, it's true that while some parties have set explicit rules against interim leaders pursuing the permanent job, the NDP chose not to do so. And indeed, I didn't want to see that type of restriction imposed when Wotherspoon was elected to the interim position.

At that time, my primary concern was uncertainty as to whether there would otherwise be a leadership vacuum. And Wotherspoon's own assurances that he didn't intend to seek the permanent leadership seemed consistent with the expectation that any change in direction would be the result of external factors, including a meaningful concern about what other alternatives might be available.

Now, the leadership campaign is beginning to come together. One strong candidate is already in the race, while a substantial movement is working to draft another well-respected MLA.

Moreover, the NDP's improved position in the polls figures to open the door to other potential leadership candidates who might be more interested in what now looks to be a far less daunting political situation than what the party faced a year ago.

That is, as long as the result of the leadership campaign itself doesn't seem to be a foregone conclusion.

If Wotherspoon were to enter the leadership race, however, the likely result would be a two-person contest between himself and Ryan Meili - with very little room for anybody else to gain much traction. And so a Wotherspoon candidacy now would risk limiting the benefits of a leadership campaign in attracting new potential leaders and supporters.

It's for the best that Wotherspoon has avoided jumping directly from the interim leadership into the race. And indeed, I'd take that as a signal that the timing of his announcement reflects a genuine effort not to hold the interim position while there's any thought of running for the permanent job.

But to the extent he's still weighing his options, it would be best if he ultimately takes a pass on the leadership campaign - ensuring that the important work he's done as interim leader serves as a benefit to his party and province, rather than casting a question mark over the NDP's leadership campaign.

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