When Jean Chretien was in power the Liberals were an almost unstoppable force. But every one must retire eventually, and when people started to believe it was getting to be time for Chretien to retire a split started to develop within the liberal party. Pretty much splitting the party in two were the group who stood solidly behind Chretien and the group who stood solidly behind his understood succesor Paul Martin. The problem with this sort of split is that it leads to hard feelings between those who feel their leader was pushed out before his time was over and those who felt their leader was held back past the time he should have been handed the reigns.
While Martin’s shortened reign was largely due to poor behaviour on the part of party brass and the fallout from this poor behaviour. However the cleansing of the party brass has left the Liberals with a leadership vaccum, one that has resulted in the liberals choosing sucessive poorly thought out leaders. This comes from two different problems.
- Because of a leadership vaccum in the party brass the search for leadership candidates has been stunted and some high profile, but inadequate leaders have been chosen and the (expected) successor to Ignatieff (Bob Rae) is a castoff from another party and unlikely to inspire voters either.
- Leadership candidates have been too self centered with high profile candidates with poor credentials being given a single election period to connect with voters and then being tossed to the wolves while the next leadership candidate is brought forward.
It is becoming quickly apparent this election that the current leadership is unacceptable to the voters and that those looking to change the current government are instead looking to the traditional third party and it is showing in the polling numbers with the NDP seeing an unprecedented surge and the numbers do not seem to be dropping.
The last time a federal party tanked this badly was when the Conservatives under Mulroney/Campbell dropped to only two seats in the legislature. Elsie Wayne and Jean Charest. While I believe the leadership should have gone to Elsie Wayne as the stronger of the two it was still the one thing the Conservatives did right. They stuck with Charest while the party was being rebuilt.
The Liberals need to learn a lesson from that rebuild and choose a fairly solid friendly face to be the face of the party while they rebuild.
At this point it appears the Liberals will drop to third place in the legislature and without a bit of luck on their side they realistically could end up fourth. It is time to stop with the flash in the pan high profile leaders that come loaded with baggage and choose a solid workmanlike leader who will rebuild the party. (like Layton has built the NDP into a force to be reckoned with)