Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Failure of Leadership

Elizabeth May fails to accept blame for electoral defeat

In a six-page election postmortem document leaked to the Canadian Press, Green Party leader Elizabeth May seems to have a few excuses for her party's performance in the 2008 federal election.

It's all the party's fault.

"No campaign planning document was ever prepared that I saw," she writes in the document. "No campaign discussions and strategy calls took place during the campaign. My feeling throughout the campaign was that I was flying by the seat of my pants."

Yet as Green Party leader, May cannot escape the reality that ensuring that the election campaign was planned, and ensuring that strategy sessions were held before and during the election was her responsibility.

Yet despite her personal failure as the leader of the Green Party -- a failure that she either seems unable to fully appreciate or unable to admit to -- May seems to think that the campaign went fairly well.

"We dominated the first week in the protest over my exclusion from the debates. The second wave was our national leaders `whistle-stop' [train] tour. In all, I participated in events in 41 ridings," she continued. "Given the reality that this was our first major national campaign, and my first as leader, we did a remarkable job."

This despite the fact that the party fell significantly short of its goal of 10% of the popular vote and elected MPs. Again, the party fell short of the "millions" of votes predicted by party brass.

Yet as clueless as individuals such as Jim Harris and George Read proved to be, May was even more so. An election in which the party fails to achieve its goals -- and loses its only MP -- is not one in which the party has done "a remarkable job".

That's a failure, and this failure began with Elizabeth May's failure to lead her party.

If the Green Party needed yet another reason to turf May as leader, they certainly have it now.

If Elizabeth May were the leader she purports herself to be, she would at least recognize her failure as Green party leader and at the very least pledge to do better in future.

Instead, May can't even arrive at a decision regarding whether it's more important that she, the party leader, win a riding or if any Green Party candidate wins at all.

"The biggest problem area to sort out by the next campaign is how I can win in my riding [any riding] when I am out of the riding more than half the time. The push and pull is tough," she added. "Can we have any kind of decision that the leader winning in her seat is a top priority?"

Moreover, May wants to downgrade more of her leadership responsibility to her nearly-too-numerous-to-count deputy leaders.

"We need to have deputy leaders do events outside of their own ridings. We should start work now to obtain commitments from Green celebrities (entertainers, writers, sports figures) to do events and media for us during the campaign."

Of course when virtually none of her deputy leaders are neither contenders in their own riding nor publicly recognized by the vast majority of Canadians, this is a strategy that simply will not work for the party. As for more participation from green celebrities, May will once again find her plans wrought with difficulty. Farley Mowat is a quaint start, but when David Suzuki questions the need for the Green party to even exist, May should know her party is in some serious trouble: with no path to victory in any single riding, and no credibility.

Yet, as it turns out, May isn't willing to quite. Unable to admit her failure, she instead insists that she's the party's only hope.

"I intend to remain as leader of the Green party," she insists. "My personal popularity with the Canadian electorate is something, speaking as objectively as possible, that the Green party needs. I did not become leader of this party to quit and, in so doing, watch it decline."

In other words, if the Green Party wants to be rid of Elizabeth May, they'll have to force her from the party leadership. She has no intentions of going gracefully.

But whether she goes gracefully or kicking and screaming, the important thing for the Green Part is that she goes. Hopefully, for the Green Party's sake, the party membership will get cracking on that lickety-split.

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