Thursday, March 20, 2014

Success Defeated Alison Redford

Alison Redford was defeated because her party is too successful. And there's proof.

In politics there wouldn't be many opportunities to test such a theory; to really know if it was the success of Alberta's Progressive Conservatives that caused Redford to resign. Luckily for this experiment there just happens to be a control group next door, it even comes with its own Alison Redford.

BC's Christy Clark has a lot in common with Redford. Both were seen as outsiders. Both ran for leadership with little caucus support, each having only one other MLA supporting them. Both became leader of a party that has been in power for multiple terms. Both won surprising come-from-behind election victories. And most importantly, both faced tremendous criticism and opposition within their own party.

With so many similarities between the two, why then is Clark still in office and Redford isn't? The answer is found in what makes the two women different, and what makes them different is their political parties. More specifically the perceived success of their political parties.

Prior to Alberta's election in 2012 the high polling of the Progressive Conservatives kept Redford's critics within caucus. Why would Redford's critics abandon her government when they are guaranteed re-election? However Christy Clark faced a much different situation, for years her party's electoral prospects were far worse, which prompted her internal enemies to prudently resign or not run again in order to save their political records from an inevitable defeat. Clark's leadership rivals Kevin Falcon and George Abbott left government while a few more vocal opponents became independents.

Of course both Redford and Clark eventually won their respective elections, but whereas Redford was stuck with a caucus that still opposed her and was mainly comprised of men, vacancies within the BC Liberals had given Clark, through influencing nomination meetings, more supporters within her party's inner circle. And significantly, the number of elected females within Clark's government rose from 13 to 17.

The idea that Redford was forced to resign because of frivolous spending doesn't contradict the idea that she was ultimately ousted because she lacked support within her own party. Besides the fact any election was far off, there have been countless occurrences of leaders in Canada making far larger mistakes who maintained the support of their caucuses. If Alison Redford had more supporters among her elected MLAs, most certainly she would not have been forced to leave office.

In the end the irony is that the success of Redford's party gave her the premiership, but that success, in securing her internal critics re-election, also took it away.

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