NDP as a Monty Python sketch

VICTORIA – In their classic movie ‘Life of Brian’, the British comedy troupe Monty Python spoofs a crumbling Roman Empire and its disorganized enemies.

  • Dec. 13, 2010 3:00 p.m.

VICTORIA – In their classic movie ‘Life of Brian’, the British comedy troupe Monty Python spoofs a crumbling Roman Empire and its disorganized enemies.

Among those foes is the People’s Front for Judea, determined to bring the empire down and free its victims. Alas, it finds itself locked in a bitter rivalry with a splinter group calling itself the Judean People’s Front. The huddling, oppressed Judeans themselves aren’t much helped by their constant, pointless in-fighting.

The resemblance to today’s B.C. political scene is striking. Emperor Gordon the Green is marking his final days. Plotters in his own Senate have sheathed their knives only now that he has agreed to speed his chariot to the exit. His taxes have so enraged the peasantry, there are fears that only his Convention Coliseum and Great Road to Whistler will be left to mark his reign.

And what does the opposition do, even as the torches and pitchforks of a people’s militia clear a broad path to the throne? It finds itself locked in a bitter dispute with a 13-member splinter group – perhaps they should call themselves the Newer Democratic Party. The rebels got their wish last Monday, as Carole James resigned as leader. The question is, now what?

The Baker’s Dozen, a default label for these rebels, were united by one notion. James must make way for a leadership contest against no declared rival, as soon as possible, because she has no compelling ideas.

I’ve been trying to point this out for years. “Innovative ideas are what the NDP needs now,” this column declared in December 2006, when the first rumblings about James’ leadership were surfacing.

At that point, the NDP’s health-care focus was exploiting the grief of seniors forced into separate care homes by their divergent medical needs.

Two years later, the NDP would denounce B.C.’s innovative carbon tax. This was not driven by any substantive logic, a fact that was demonstrated when they dropped their objections after the 2009 election.

The common thread with the separated seniors and the carbon tax is that these were merely tactics. See something unpopular and oppose it.

The same empty tactics have guided the NDP through the drama over the harmonized sales tax. They still haven’t said clearly what they would do with it. Events have moved faster than their ability to formulate even the beginnings of an actual plan. 

I spent some time last weekend on the NDP’s policy development website, called Our Province Our Future. Did you know that this major initiative was launched this past spring? Didn’t think so.

There are impressive studies about topics like the volatility of commodity markets. B.C. has started making serious inroads into the Chinese lumber market, driven by aggressive government promotion programs.

What has the NDP done? Opposed it, claiming all we can do is sell low-grade lumber at a loss.

What’s the NDP’s latest wood product idea? Our Province Our Future has a discussion paper that ends with a series of important questions, such as “What can be done to generate a shift toward high value-added production?”

There are lots of questions, but I didn’t find any answers.

The Baker’s Dozen split with James began with the expulsion of Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson. His crime was to say that seven years into her leadership, James offers few ideas.

Gordon Campbell’s problem was having too many ideas. His record for cabinet reorganizations alone should stand for all time.

The NDP still looks like a front group for public-sector unions and not much else.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com.tfletcher@blackpress.ca