The resignation of Kevin Falcon as finance minister, along with George Abbott, Mary McNeil, John Les and other MLAs who have declared they won't seek re-election cannot be seen -- as Premier Christy Clark would have it -- simply an opportunity for her to promote able backbenchers. Falcon was the second most powerful man in the B.C. government and that can't be lightly cast aside.
It's not unusual for ministers who don't plan to seek re-election to leave the department and finish their term on the backbench. That happened a couple of times during the Bill Bennett years with this huge difference -- it was talked over with the minister in question and supported by the ministry. It was not ever a hastily assembled press conference resulting in headlines. The main difference being that Bennett was always both in charge and in control.
Caucuses are held together by equal amounts of fear and respect of which Bennett had in abundance. Clark had no chance from the start, something I can say that I unblushingly stated at the outset.
Ms. Clark had shown little talent for governing when she was in Gordon Campbell's cabinet. She clearly didn't have the "royal jelly." What she did have was good locks and a glib tongue -- enough to make her look good but false evidence of her ability.
Clark had no chance from the beginning. Only one of her caucus supported her leadership bid and he was a dud.
In many ways, Clark is reminiscent of Bill Vander Zalm with the style and glibness leading to election without support from colleagues-to-be. In Vander Zalm's case, most of his caucus not only didn't support him, they vigorously opposed him. They fought tooth and nail against his leadership bid and the cracks in cabinet when senior cabinet ministers Grace McCarthy and Brian Smith both quit. Later, four MLAs jumped ship to sit as Independents.
Caucuses are a strange breed. From the outset they can't understand how that idiot got into cabinet and they didn't. As Napoleon said, every foot soldier has a marshal's baton in his knapsack.
They have, notwithstanding their pious claims to the contrary, little to do of any consequence, and good premiers knowing that, give them things to do to keep idle hands from doing the devil's work.
The big reason for caucus loyalty is that they owe their seats to the leader. When they see that the leader is most unlikely to be able to lead them into the ditch, they become antsy and no longer loyal colleagues waiting for that cabinet post to happen. They can no longer see any way they will be promoted and even if they are, they will be shipmates on the Titanic.
It's been said that the difference between a cactus and a caucus is that with the cactus the pricks are all on the outside.
Interestingly, before the Falcon resignation, I was talking to a B.C. NDP front-bencher who told me how much the present situation resembled the 2001 NDP as their political edifice crumbled around their ears -- same atmosphere and same attitude towards their leader, in those days Ujjal Dosanjh.
What can the Liberals do? A couple of things.
Nothing hoping like Mr. Micawber, that something will turn up. As the spotlight of critical analysis turns on the B.C. NDP, they'll screw up. The apt saying is that in politics, six weeks is an eternity.
Clark could resign and make way for a leadership convention from which a charismatic leader emerges. Pretty thin gruel and while we're on the issue of food, I think the Liberals are tostada.
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