Monday, September 28, 2009

Swan out/Anybody but Ashton is on

The Free Press is reporting that Swan is dropping out of the race to become the next Premier.

This is partly due to Swan's poor showing to date but also because of the party establishment's fear of Ashton. Swan is a team player and realizes that an Ashton win could be devasting for the party. The anybody but Ashton campaign is on.

This development is a big boost to Selinger. You can bet that every MLA and Labour support that Swan had will now go over to Selinger as well as the St. Vital, Southdale and Seine River delegates. The vote splitting between Selinger and Swan is also over which should help Selinger in the coming days.

Ashton is still likely going to get large number of delegates in delegate rich Inkster and The Maples and could also pick up some more delegates in areas such as Fort Whyte. But with the entire party machine now behind Selinger, Ashton has taken a big hit.


  1. Swan didn't have much strength on the ground, so his strategy from the beginning was to chase endorsements, hoping to win on the basis of labour support and super-delegates. Folks who want to be power brokers jumped on-board, including the leadership of the MFL, who had pushed-through the delegated convention in hopes of being kingmakers, and dubious allies like Ron Evans, hardly a friend of the NDP. In the end, the lack of depth on the Swan team showed in the Bipole III fiasco. Rather than wearing that one himself, he tried to extricate himself by making Evans and Whitehead look like chumps, so it's no wonder that they didn't deliver the vote.

    Even before The Pas, though, it was clear that despite high-profile endorsements, Swan had few volunteers and minimal organizing capacity. He didn't even manage to advance a full slate at several of the selection meetings where he should have been a contender.

    Ashton just might win this thing, but it will be a tactical victory only. Welch accurately reports on Ashton's strategy to sell hundreds of memberships into a few targeted constituencies. What she missed is that many of these memberships came in at the $6 'low income' level, even where this stretches credibility (not that there isn't hidden poverty in Fort Whyte, but...). This tactic is an insult to low income people because it cheapens (and, perhaps, threatens!) the inclusive 'pay as you're able' approach to membership, and it should be an insult to New Canadians, who are being asked to do a one-time favour, not being recruited to a political movement. Ashton may claim to be reaching-out, but he is at best engaged in brokerage politics and at worst cynically exploiting people. And despite his claim to be appealing to the grassroots, he has largely ignored existing party members; for example, he hasn't even seen fit to send representatives to speak on his behalf at meetings he can't win.

    Selinger is the only one who ran from the beginning to lead the whole party. In contrast to Ashton's extravagant promises, he has come out with carefully costed, plausible policy statements, and he has a legion of volunteers making member contact. This has allowed him to take constituencies like Kildonan and St. John's even without MLA support. He is being overrun by Ashton's tactics in places, but at the end of the day, he is the one who won't be facing legitimacy questions if he wins.

  2. I saw Selinger and Ashton at the delegate selection meeting they attended last night.

    It was a curious affair. Greg and Steve were very cordial and relaxed with each other. They both agreed with and backed positions promoted by the other guy. They tried to outdo each other with how progressive and committed to social justice they each are. The differences between the two of them have been somewhat exaggerated.

    The candidates for delegate spots spoke in glowing terms about both leadership candidates. Lots of old white folks with reading glasses supporting Selinger; lots of fellas in turbans supporting Ashton. Polite applause on both sides for both candidates.

    Highlight of the night: Ashton comparing the race to Survivor, pointing out that he and Selinger were the ones that hadn't been voted off the island yet.

    Both of them improved 200% on their stump speeches from the first time I saw them in River Heights, where Ashton had been a bundle of nervous energy and Selinger spoke like a hybrid between a autistic university professor and a bad hypnotist.

    It's funny. With Swan out, I expected the race to get more aggressive, but the two camps seem to have settled into a more relaxed, colleagial competition. Smart for both, maybe. Ashton needs to come across to the Chardonnay socialists as not so much a hardliner; Selinger needs to be careful he doesn't alienate the communities that are coming out for Ashton in droves.