(I wrote this on Tuesday. Here it is Wednesday, and it’s already out of date. Shows what I know.)
Alberta politics is all a-twitter these days about the future of the Princess Premier, Alison Redford.
Two MLAs have resigned, bringing simmering discontent to the surface. Len Webber quit last week, calling Redford “a bully” (poor baby!), while Donna Kennedy-Glans, the associate minister for electricity (whatever that is), threw in the towel this week. There are ‘rumblings’ (media-speak for unsubstantiated blather) that 20 or so MLAs were on the verge of quitting. (That number seems laughable; there aren’t 20 PC MLAs with the balls to go it alone.) Whatever the number, clearly Redford is in trouble. It appears she is cold, aloof, unpleasant to deal with, authoritarian and cavalier with public funds. There have been no ringing endorsements coming from prominent PCs, and public statements of support have been tepid at best.
But with two years to go before the next election, she has plenty of time to ride out this storm, and lead the Tories to victory in 2016, right?
Hey, anything can happen. But I doubt it.
Alison Redford is finished. She’s a zombie premier, apparently alive but actually a dead woman walking. The Tories are finished, too. It’s just a matter of waiting out the next two years.
But wait, you say. Two years in politics is a long time, right? Anything can happen.
Yes, two years in politics is a long time. But I think the rot in the Tory tree is so deep that no amount of pruning can save it. And it doesn’t matter if Redford leads the PCs in the next election, or that she doesn’t survive the next few months and some would-be savior comes along to lead the party.
First, let’s look at Redford.
Back when Redford won the leadership in October 2011, it looked like the PCs had once again reinvented themselves. A new leader for an old party is one thing, but a new female leader of an old party — and a female leader who was a centrist, if not leaning a little left, and from the big city — signaled a reinvention of the party. There was goodwill aplenty for the new premier. But right away, Redford stumbled. She broke promises, and quickly showed her disregard for the public purse by spending $70,000 on a ‘retreat’ for government members, just before the 2012 election. Redford performed so poorly, and lost so much of the goodwill she inherited, that the PCs were ripe for the picking in the 2012 election. Here, she got lucky: the Wildrose stumbled into a ‘lake of fire’, reliably Liberal votes went PC to block the Wildrose, and Redford scored a huge, but somehow unconvincing, victory.
Even with a majority, Redford stumbled from miscue to miscue. A year after the election, the media featured multiple stories about Redford’s difficult first year. With the second year anniversary coming up, the stories will be more of the same. So the current problems besetting the Princess Premier are nothing new — Alison Redford has had nothing but problems since she became premier. She may be smart and accomplished, but she’s a lousy politician. I get the feeling the public just doesn’t like her, and you can’t turn around dislike with appeals to motherhood.
But what if the PCs undergo another palace coup, and find a new leader? Won’t that help?
I don’t think so. Unless there’s a new Ralph Klein lurking unnoticed on the backbenches, there’s not a lot of strength there. Redford’s cabinet is not exactly packed with superstars, and the backbench is the usual collection of retreads and nobodies. And there wouldn’t be a huge lineup of potential candidates to lead an arthritic party. The Wildrose will be smarter and sharper in the next election, and the PCs will be … older.
I think Redford will ride out this storm. But the PCs know they’re on a sinking ship. A very slowly sinking ship, but still sinking.