The election of Christy Clark as the head of the BC Liberal Party and that province’s next Premier holds some valuable lessons for the many political parties in Alberta that will soon be choosing their next leader.
1. Clark wasn’t in cabinet before the leadership vote, nor was she particularly loyal to her party in the years preceding. And party members didn’t care.
Clark was not only not a part of Gordon Campbell’s government or cabinet before the leadership vote, she had pretty well abandoned her party for many years as she built her profile as a province-wide radio show host. The Lesson: Party members who aren’t in the inner circle and who sit outside of the fence do stand a chance. Often times when change is desired, an outsider is very appealing.
2. Clark won the vote despite past scandal.
In yet another example of a politician with a Teflon coating, Clark had family and political connections to the BC Legislature raid trial which found several people guilty of fraud and breach of trust. Once again, party members didn’t care. The Lesson: In democracy, memories are short. Even those who are tarnished or carry political baggage can carry the vote.
3. Media matters. Big business and cabinet support doesn’t.
Clark had built a significant profile for herself as a radio show host, regularly coming into the homes and cars of British Columbians. Her rivals carried the support of most cabinet ministers and MLAs, and big business was squarely behind Clark’s closest rival, lending their support and giving their money. Clark wasn’t held back by the lack of support from the supposed powerbrokers. The Lesson: Profile and pop culture rule the day. Offer change and find ways to tell your story so you reach the masses no matter where they live. Do this and rise above the caucus and corporate machine.
4. For all of the benefits of being on the outside, the right insiders matter.
Clark was clearly the outsider, but she did have the right people as a part of her election machine that helped make inroads within the party and raise money. The Lesson: The right campaign team can make up for other perceived shortcomings.
5. Voters wanted change.
There are many more challenges ahead for Clark, including healing a party that is fractured and fighting off opposition parties that are gaining a stronger voice. But party members wanted change and Clark was their choice. The Lesson: The situation in Alberta is very similar, with many parties facing the exact same challenges. Candidates that use change and being different as their calling cards may just be the order of the day.