A tale of two disastrous starts to government

In past 2 months, both Alberta and UK have chosen new leaders of respective jurisdictions and both have been unmitigated disasters. Despite being two very different jurisdictions with very different economic issues, the similarities are surprisingly strong. Sure there are some differences but both are examples that will probably in 30 years be in first year political science textbooks how not to start a new term in government.

Across the pond in UK, Liz Truss was chosen on September 5th becoming next prime-minister. The Queen died on September 8th so with the mourning period nothing was done until Queen was laid to rest. But after that happened chaos and political changes beyond what many of us could imagine happened. Truss brought down a mini budget that was both economically illiterate and political suicide. If economically dumb but politically popular or vice versa might have survived but takes special skill to do both. The most popular tax cuts created biggest deficits which markets reacted horribly to while the least costly ones like top rate cut were most politically unpopular. Markets reacted negatively and Tory support nosedived forcing her to reverse many of the promises. I had always thought 30% was the floor for British Tories, but turns out not as most put them in low 20s. I likewise assumed Labour getting over 50% was impossible yet most polls put them there. Now to be fair these are just snapshots and can change. But still shows that ideological driven policy can mean not only lose all key swing voters, but even lose many who normally support your party. I suspect party dumps her before next election as while winning next election is a long shot; at least with new leader may be able to avoid a wipeout.

Back here in Canada, UCP choose Danielle Smith and while far less polling, it would be an understatement to say her first week has been a lousy one. Whether gaffe on unvaccinated most discriminated against, stupid comments on Ukraine war, this women is an absolute disaster. She appeals the conspiracy nutbars who get their news on alternative websites, but comes across as nutty, extreme and out of touch to everyone else. Conventional wisdom was NDP could only win if right was split (I never bought this personally), but now more and more are accepting that if UCP leader is crazy enough, which Smith is, Notley can win even with a united right. One poll puts NDP at 53% and UCP at 38% and this was before all her stupid comments. I absolutely believe this is possible and right now I think it is not just possible but even likely NDP gets over 50% and UCP under 40%. Heck if bad enough maybe even under 30% although for latter to happen Alberta party would have to rise into double digits.

This points to bigger problem with conservative politics in the English speaking world where much of their membership is made up of people with views well outside the mainstream thus keep on choosing unelectable leaders. I would say this applies to Poilievre as well and only reason his poll numbers are not tanking is he is in opposition. But should be warning if he does wins and tries to govern like either of those two, he will destroy the party for a generation. Whether it be listening to your libertarian think tanks in UK or in case of Alberta your hard right types who get their information on dark web and show up at rallies like trucker convoy (i.e. I prefer to call them the Flu Trux Klan); you are dealing with people who are completely detached from most of the population. Parties need to find a way to ensure these types no longer control them as I fear until they can minimize their influence, they will continue to get unelectable leaders and that is not healthy for our democracy. I am not sure what solution is, but parties on right need to find a way to either purge or marginalize the more extreme elements. Some may say it will embolden them, but I argue you legitimize them like GOP did in US, it creates a whole bunch of worse problems. While if marginalize, may get ugly for a short while but eventually they lose steam.

6 thoughts on “A tale of two disastrous starts to government

  1. I highly doubt the ABNDP gets above 50 percent of the vote next year. I could see them get in the mid to high 40s in the best case scenario with a more efficient vote than people expect.. I still think polarization will kneecap them next year. It will be tough for smith to stay disciplined until the end of next year’s election campaign though. She will be tested a lot in the next few months.


    1. Generally agree, only reason put big numbers out is watching closely what is happening in UK and who would believe Labour would be over 50% and Tories down in low 20s there. Obviously conservative base is much stronger in Alberta than UK, but on average probably only by 10-15 points. At same time Smith certainly does seem to have a real foot and mouth problem.


  2. Before Liz Truss resigned today (and even after), I can completely see how the Tories in the UK could get wiped out like that and fall below 20% in the polls – basically, Labour winning back the Red Wall while the Tories losing their traditional base in the South. One thing that does raise skepticism though is that all of that is going to Labour.

    I would have assumed that at least some of that would go to the Lib Dems. That would be mainly in more affluent suburban areas around London, which are Tory strongholds but also mostly voted Remain. Those would be ripe for their picking if there was deep anger at the UK Tories. It would be like the 905 area, particularly places like Oakville and Aurora, suddenly jumping to the NDP, or someone like Bernie Sanders winning in places like Orange County, CA, Gwinnett County, GA, Loudoun County, VA or Fort Bend County, TX. Those seem like bridges too far for areas that aren’t big on higher taxes or spending but also resist populism and nationalism.

    The question – where to go from here? If they lose two key elements of a coalition, they have to get one of them back or risk a Kim Campbell-like collapse. At the very least, they need to find a way back to a level where they can be a solid Opposition, as opposed to a potential wipeout. With the current polls, either the SNP or the Lib Dems would be the Official Opposition.


    1. I think rural south is pretty solidly conservative. Maybe not like rural Plains in US or rural Alberta but much like rural Ontario which PCs hold even in bad elections. So I think party holds that. If Boris Johnson becomes leader again and polls return to where they were under him, party would be in good shape to win over 200 seats, although this episode might have caused enough damage that is not even feasible. As much as people may dislike Boris Johnson, I actually think electorally he is probably their best asset in minimizing losses.


    2. Labour has shifted enough to the center that they have pretty much neutralized the Lib Dems in a lot of traditional tory-LD seats and around the london commuter belt. If an election was held today labour would probably win a lot of seats nobody expects them to win. This might hold true in the next election to even if labour’s doesn’t get above 50 percent of the vote. I think labour gets between 370 and 430 seats in the next election. at the moment.


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