I see that Mr Vince Ingham has announced his resignation from the PLP. This follows on from the departure of MP Mr Terry Lister and the question-marks surrounding the frayed relationship between the PLP and the Speaker, Randy Horton.
He was not an MP, nor did he retain his seat in the Senate. His resignation from the PLP doesn’t mean anything in formal political terms. But it can mean a lot in informal political terms.
Why, after all, make a public announcement about resigning from the PLP? If he was in the Senate or the House of Assembly, that would make sense. If we were in the run-up to an election and he wanted to make clear he was running, but not for the PLP, that would make sense.
But neither of those circumstances seem applicable.
Instead it seems as if he wanted to politically distance himself from the PLP, and felt it necessary to do so publicly.
For the record, I don’t really know Mr Ingham. He only joined the PLP in the last year, in a move I generally saw as one of opportunism. He had just left Belco in what appears to be less than ideal circumstances (based on various implied comments on social media and elsewhere), and his background made his decision to join the PLP somewhat surprising.
My analysis at the time was that Ms Cox, the then Premier, wanted to burnish her election chances with individuals with business credentials, to win over some of the swing voters who would vote OBA based on the perception that the PLP had failed in the area of business policies.
And I saw Mr Ingham as looking for a new career and identifying the PLP as the likely winner of the next election – and so joining them would either build connections in the corridors of power (even if he lost his constituency but the PLP won), or securing a seat at the table post-election.
So, yeah, I essentially saw Mr Ingham as both a political opportunist and his promotion by the PLP (to Senator and as a candidate) as also one of political opportunism.
Again, I don’t know Mr Ingham. The above is just based on my own observations and thoughts. He may have perfectly valid reasons for leaving, and true progressive labour convictions, but he has failed to articulate them so far.
Nonetheless, this move, to publicly resign from the PLP, after losing his constituency in the election and the PLP losing power (and thus being pointless in terms of connections to power), well, it’s hard not to see it as a confirmation of my view of him as an opportunist.
Loss of Power = Loss of Opportunists
He certainly isn’t the only member of the PLP I saw as an opportunist during the PLP’s tenure. There were many who I saw as only PLP for the sake of power and connections. And with the access to power gone with the PLP’s loss, I am in no way surprised that those I saw as opportunists are deserting the PLP.
The UBP experienced a similar phenomenon after 1998, and accelerated after 2003.
Personally, the presence of such opportunists in the PLP during my time with them was one of frustration for me. I saw those who had been committed to the ideals of progressive labour, both ideologically and in terms of behind-the-scenes labour, being ignored, while opportunists were promoted by the leadership. The promotion of these opportunists correlated with both the pushing aside of ‘true’ PLPers and with the erosion of what was left of the PLP’s ideological perspectives.
Pros & Cons
While the loss of these opportunists may weaken the PLP initially, be it in formal parliamentary terms, or in terms of public perception (as a ‘sinking ship’), I also see it as an opportunity for the PLP to recover its ideological heritage as both a party of progressives and of labour.
Unfortunately, however, many of the more ideologically committed progressive labourists have deserted the PLP, in active terms, and it is not clear whether the PLP can attract them back to help rebuild the party. I reckon many will prefer to wait on the sidelines and get a clearer understanding of what the new Leader (and his direction for the PLP) is all about.
Others will be motivated to rejoin more out of opposition to the OBA and what it represents.
And still others will be motivated to explore alternate options, having been burned by the opportunism of the PLP’s experience of power. These will be so alienated by the past sidelining and ideological abandonment that they will no doubt be supportive of the PLP over the OBA, but only in a critical sense, and less inclined to work within what is seen as a limited and ‘damaged goods’ vehicle such as the PLP.