Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Will Danny step down?

I'm not much one for predictions outside of my annual, completely futile, total shot in the dark guess regarding the Academy Awards. I have no psychic abilities, alas, and if I could predict things, then 6-49 numbers is about all I would want to be really good at.

So this isn't a prediction, but something I'm wondering about. Is this the year that Danny Williams announces he's stepping down as premier?

That might seem like madness to most of you. Williams remains the most popular politician by a mile in Newfoundland. Hell, you could argue he's the most popular politician in Canada if you go strictly by poll numbers (and yes, I know that Ed has done some analysis questioning whether those numbers are inflated). Why would you step down?

Well, this is my speculation as to why, by the end of the year, Williams might announce his departure.

First, when he took over the job as leader of the PCs lo those many moons ago, he said he was only staying for two terms. This October will mark the half way point of the second term. Most good leaders, when stepping down, want to leave enough leeway to call a leadership convention and then give their successor enough time to put their mark on running the government. And yes, I know, Williams wouldn't be the first politician in the history of anything to lie about how long he was going to serve.

So yeah, Williams takes "a walk in the blizzard" or sees pretty Christmas lights or something next December and announces he's going to step down as premier in May 2010. Plenty of time for the Conservatives to have a small leadership race and elect a new premier. Then they new person has a little more than a year to place his (likely Jerome Kennedy) or her (please God Elizabeth Marshall) stamp on running the government.

So yeah, there's that. But there's also this.

Anybody who runs for politics has a healthy ego. Anyone who believes they can do a better job of running a place like Newfoundland and Labrador than anybody else obviously has enough ego that he could donate vast chunks of it to those less confident than himself and still have plenty leftover to be a raving maniac.

There's the issue of wanting the power to do things, belief that you're the best person to do the job and a strong desire to be deeply liked and respected. I might be wrong about this, but Williams seems to have a more deeply situated desire to be liked (the more cynical would say worshipped) than any Newfoundland politician I can think of recently.

And I think 2009 is going to be a rough year for the province. Again, I hope I'm wrong. But there's too many closures, too many people coming back from Alberta and not going back after their 10 days or so off. Oil prices are low, the fishery remains struggling, the mining industry is facing deep troubles as well.

For years Newfoundland politicians have strived to develop the province along the lines of the "miracles" in Ireland and Iceland. Yet, those two countries are among the hardest hit in the western world by the economic downturn. So what happens if those "miracles" come to Newfoundland? And what happens when you're a premier who really likes to be liked? Do you stick around and try to right a ship when facing factors that are largely beyond your control, or do you go "Well, I've been doing this for enough years, time for someone else to take charge."

I don't know. I think it depends on how 2009 goes. And if it looks like it's going to get ugly. Williams might just go before people start to hate him and blame him for things. Then again, the huge ego and belief that only he can make things better might overwhelm that and he sticks around to right the ship, as it were.

Like I said, could be very wrong, but I think Williams steps down by the end of the year. But we will see...

Last Five
1. Here not there - Andy Stochansky*
2. You won't make a fool out of me - Flogging Molly
3. Anyone else but you - The Moldy Peaches
4. Sing for the submarine - REM
5. Tomato in the rain - Kaiser Chiefs


Edward G. Hollett said...

Thanks for the mention, but you linked to a post at labradore.

Two years ago, the Prem made it clear he would be packing it in. I labelled it the story of the year.

Not surprisingly, I was the only person who noticed the remarks.

This year, Williams says he is staying and everyone notices. Odd.

There are a couple of reasons for him to make the pronouncement this year. The biggest one I can see is that the announcement keeps his caucus dormant for at least 12 months until they start to get a better sense of the financial situation.

If the current downturn works out to be short-lived, then he can toddle on with his legacy projects in train and with the government safely in the hands of Jerome or Joan or Ross or whomever. There's no political cost to having a leadership race with the economy chugging and people fat and happy.

If the economy continues to grind along, there will be no Lower CHurchill for sure - hence the legacy is incomplete - and there is the risk he'd be seen as abandoning his people on their road to the Promised Land. A leadership racket could weaken the party and let someone come along to challenge from the other side.

Oddly enough, the Liberals are caught here in a bit of a Catch 22.

If a strong alternative to DW appeared, that might hasten his departure. Last time he talked about leaving, his whole world was in the crapper. Having an opposition that was constantly nipping at his backside and he might get frustrated enough to move along prematurely.

As long as the opp parties are as they are now, he can be assured of total hegemony.

Hence the catch: keeping with the current state of political affairs and following the precedent set by DW himself, no alternative will come forward until such time as there is a clear shot at the top job. DW waited to run until he had a weakened opponent and thus a a short time on the opposition benches.

Will he step down? Yes. At some point.

When will that be? Who knows.
And - to be perfectly frank - who really cares.

The real question people should start asking - and start asking right now - is who will replace him.

WJM said...

Most good leaders

That's where your analysis goes off the rails. ;)

Verification word: Felocal