Friday, October 09, 2020

October at the LRC

I've been meaning to note the recently very impressive Literary Review of Canada and particularly its current (October 2020) issue.

There is a long essay in it by Conservative Party stalwart Joe Martin, "Thank You, Next" in which he reviews the long sad history of leadership changes in his party and concludes: 

it is time for the Conservatives to truly shake things up — not to develop more policy positions, although that too is needed, but to try a different method of choosing a leader.

He's come around to the idea that the caucus should hire and fire the leader.

Let’s reduce the alarming concentration of power in the hands of party leaders. Let’s transform members of Parliament from a group of “nobodies,” to quote Trudeau père, to legislators who are responsible to their electors — and who can truly hold their leaders to account in victory and defeat.

Regulars of this blog will recognize this as an argument I have put forth, ah, a few times, and Joe is kind enough to give me a shout-out. Indeed, he's told me an essay of mine in Canada's History influenced the writing of his essay. We'll see if he has any influence within his party. 

It's also striking how his essay dialogues with other pieces in the magazine.  Scott Griffin (of the Griffin Prize) laments the end of the "honourable resignation" in which a politician would resign from cabinet on a principle and return to the backbenchers.  But Martin's essay makes clear why that no longer happens.  Given the imbalance of power within party caucuses, going willingly to the backbenchers cannot be a way to stand up for principles. It's simply political suicide..

Martin's ideas also dialogues with a review by Ron Hikel of Nelson Wiseman's Political Odysseys, a history of Canadian political parties.  I have not read the book, but I browsed in it and, like most Canadian political science writing, its analyses seem uninterested in the issue Martin raises.

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