Call it the Government of the Walking Dead.
Gordon Campbell pre-empted a putsch from within his own ranks last week, announcing his resignation the day before a caucus meeting which he was instructed not to attend.
As a mortally wounded leader, he already had his hands full trying to maintain some semblance of discipline and unity in his cabinet and caucus; now as a zombie he has no handle on them at all. What effective threat can he bring against a rebellious Minister? Removal from Cabinet? Nothing could boost a Liberal MLA’s chances of surviving the deluge in the next election so much as a public falling out with Campbell.
One thing you can be sure about, the new leader’s cabinet will look very different from Campbell’s. Appointment to a portfolio by Gordo is hardly a long-term career prospect. Removal from that doomed band is just about the best break one could hope for.
And here we are, less than a week into his effort to rule from the grave, with Liberals quarrelling in public about whether BC’s drinking-driving laws should be softened to encourage alcohol sales in restaurants. We haven’t heard anything yet. Major splits in the coalition that constitutes the rudderless provincial Liberal party will be increasingly probable as time passes and pieces continue to fall off.
Look for a total outsider to step into the leadership.
Campbell has succeeded in thoroughly poisoning the well for his successor (I think that one of his main motives is to keep Carole Taylor from replacing him. She is far too smart to pick up the terrible hand he has dealt). If he stays on until the spring, it will be far too late for any of the manoeuvres that the Libs need to make if they want to keep their party (let alone their government) intact. It will be beyond the point where the HST referendum can moved to an earlier date. Failing that, they are doomed to a protracted, nasty political death. And in the meanwhile, does anyone seriously think it makes sense to have a Throne Speech and budget brought in next spring by a zombie Premier?
What the Liberals need to do, to survive the next election, is as follows:
1. Dump Campbell – as quickly as they can. No need to be graceful or worry about hurt feelings. The dead feel no pain.
2. Select an interim leader.
3. If it’s not already too late, scrap the 15% income tax cut Campbell announced in his pathetic effort to salvage his political career
4. Scrap the HST and eat the $1.6 billion refundable bribe from Harper (eliminating the tax cut will go most of the way to cover that). No matter what the scenario, the new leader will have to bite this bullet before the electorate pulls the switch on the political guillotine through the HST referendum next autumn.
5. Recruit a new leader who has no active association with any of their current sad crew, who can at least try to look credible in launching a dramatically new and different government, untained by Campbell’s deceptions in the last election campaign.
6. Hope the NDP implodes from infighting over leadership.
(I feel no qualms about telling them this, because there is absolutely no risk that they would follow any advice from me.)