Jim Furlong: Political knives

Jim Furlong: Political knives

Politics is a nasty business. You probably knew that. Here is the question of the day: Have the local New Democrats slipped “the black spot” to Lorraine Michael again? In pirate lure the black spot is a means of conveying the message, it is time to go. 

This week an absolutely astonishing turn of events occurred when St. John’s city councilor Sheilagh O’Leary announced she would challenge Lorraine Michael for the NDP nomination in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi. That is a seat, probably the only one, that has NDP written all over it and Ms. Michael has held it for a dozen years. From there she led her party to being a real electoral presence in the province. 

Politically Knifed

Then she got politically knifed in a coup attempt staged by Dale Kirby, Chris Mitchelmore, George Murphy and Gerry Rogers (alphabetical order). They ganged up on Lorraine Michael while she was on vacation. It didn’t work. Mitchelmore, Kirby and Murphy ultimately bolted the party. 

Gerry Rogers had a “Saul on the road to Damascus” moment. She recanted, stayed on, and eventually won the leadership of what was left of the NDP only to step down in less than a year. Now the NDP has only one sitting member; Lorraine Michael. So it is that Sheilagh O’Leary wants Lorraine Michael out now and has made a challenge to her nomination. Ms. O’Leary says a contested race “will be very positive for the party.” 

Well good luck selling that to staunch NDPers. Taking on Lorraine Michael is a very polarizing move. Some will like it, but then some party loyalists will HATE it. It has many things flowing from it but “positive for the party” is certainly an optimistic view.

The NDP has a new leader now in the person of Alison Coffin. Ms. Michael has indicated she might have been prepared to step aside to give Ms. Coffin a shot at getting a seat in the House, but she wasn’t going anywhere for Sheilagh O’Leary. 

Patron Saint of the NDP

Well here we are and the NDP is once again ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Yes, they have a new leader, but attention is firmly focused on the announced candidacy of Sheila O’Leary and a confrontation with Lorraine Michael, the patron saint of the NDP and a woman who has spent her life in the service of others. 

What is going on? Is this a poorly timed grasp for power by O’Leary? Has she gone “rogue?” Or is it instead a manifestation of a broader movement within the ranks of the NDP and “the socialist hordes” such as they are, to get the party moving in a different direction? 

My advice to the new leader? Instead of saying she is not going to “choose sides” in the nomination issue, she should grab that situation and get it under control before her party self- destructs once again in an internal power racket played out in public.

NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: jfurlong@ntv.ca

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