While waiting to watch the live feed of the David Swann press conference Tuesday morning, I overheard one reporter say “Will the last person inside the Alberta Legislature please turn out he lights”.
I’ve never seen Alberta politics as volatile as it has been in the past seven days. First Ed Stelmach quits, to everyone’s surprise, then Ted Morton quits to run for Stelmach’s job, to no one’s surprise. Alberta Liberal leader David Swann’s resignation today came as a surprise as well, but perhaps it is not entirely unexpected.
I have a bit of a hard time commenting on David Swann, because after serving with him for 3 1/2 years in the Legislature, I consider him a friend. He is genuinely one of the kindest, warmest men I have ever known. As corny as it sounds, he genuinely believes in helping his fellow man. He’s a quality person through and through. But that doesn’t always translate to leadership.
David has a core of followers in his constituency who believe in him deeply (I’ve called them acolytes). Why didn’t that translate into province-wide affection? I think, just like Kevin Taft before him, that David Swann is the type of person who is smart, caring, and deeply impressive in person, and yet does not translate on the big stage. Why that is, I do not know, but I have a theory.
In order to really succeed in politics, you have to be a bit of an SOB. Ralph Klein, for example, has plenty of SOB in him. Jean Chretien oozed it, but hid it well. Trudeau was pure SOB, and didn’t care if anyone knew it. Same with Stephen Harper.
Ed Stelmach failed, in part, because he lacked that SOB ingredient. He, too, is essentially a nice guy who just didn’t have the stomach for the uglier aspects of politics (i.e. Ted Morton). David Swann doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, which just doesn’t guarantee a long political career. I’m not saying that there isn’t room for good people in politics — there are plenty, from all sides — but when it comes to being leader, sometimes you just have to be a miserable SOB, because that’s what’s right for the party. Sad, but true.
I’m sure there will be lots of conjecture on who will be the new leader (the list is not long, believe me), but for today, I’ll let it go. This is a day to say thanks to David Swann, a good man who took on a tough job for all the right reasons.