Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Liberal leadership thoughts

Saturday's Liberal convention has cemented what I have always thought about leadership contests: in a convention format, you do not want to be the frontrunner unless you can win it on the first ballot. Stephane Dion's up the middle victory was similar to Joe Clark's in 1976, or Dalton McGuinty's in 1997(?). Look at Joe Clark (1983), Murray Elston, Gerald Kennedy, Svend Robinson - all of them were presumptive front-runners going into their respective conventions, only to lose several ballots latter. It seems with a delegate convention, there develops an "any but the frontrunner" momentum as each ballot passes, and the candidates start making deals to get the dropped candidates' support. I also think that front runners don't have the same pressure to make deals during the convention, believing that they can attract delegates in subsequent ballots without all the compromises that the other candidates need to make.

Either way, Stephane Dion played the convention perfectly - he knew where the delegates were, what deals needed to be made, and stuck to his plan. Dion and his team have shown that they are savvy political operators by pulling this victory off.

Stephane Dion seems like a decent, intellectually consistent leader, and is a good change from the Chr├ętien/Martin years. However, it seems at this time that he is the right leader at the wrong time, during one of those periods where the Liberal party lies in fallow after too many years in power, and with the Conservative party in a period of ascendancy.

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