The BC NDP was rocked this afternoon with the resignation of NDP MLA Katrine Conroy as Caucus Whip, with MLAs Jenny Kwan, Lana Popham and Claire Trevena attending a news conference in Victoria in support of Conroy.
None of the four women MLAs would state that they support NDP leader Carole James' continued leadership when questioned by the media. Public Eye Online's Sean Holman has extensive raw video of Conroy's news conference and also James' session with media.
CKNW AM 980 reported at 5 p.m. that NDP MLAs Guy Gentner, Doug Routley and Robin Austin also today declined to state public support for James.
Conroy said she resigned after five years as Whip and at a cost of $20,000 a year in additional salary because she had lost the confidence of the leader and caucus but it is clear her move is another response to James' personal expulsion of Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson from the caucus in October.
The appearance of veteran MLA Kwan along with Popham and Trevena is the most public expression of the split in caucus over James that blew up after she tossed Simpson without consulting Caucus Chair Norm Macdonald, Conroy or the caucus executive.
Simpson had made mildly critical comments about James' speech to the Union of BC Municipalities on a Williams Lake community website, saying it lacked detail or inspiration.
He refused to publicly apologize for his comments and James' supporters claimed Simpson had been "bad mouthing" the leader for a long time and therefore he had to go.
On CKNW AM 980 this evening Simpson told host Jon McComb that Conroy had been working for six weeks on an agreement where he would return to caucus but that the talks had failed this week, leading to Conroy's decision to resign as whip.
A clearly angry James said she was "drawing a line in the sand" over party infighting about her leadership and expected the issue to be decided at the NDP Provincial Council meeting Saturday in Victoria, where a number of resolutions calling for a full leadership review are to be debated.
"Our party has done this before and somebody has to stand up and say enough, and that's what I'm doing, I'm saying enough," James told media.
"Does the party want to continue this kind of in-fighting? Do they want to continue to tear each other apart?"
"The public of British Columbia must be scratching their head about politics right now. They must be wondering about what is going on."
"There are clearly some people in the party who are not happy with that. There are people who would rather have those old kind of divides. Well, that's not me," James said.
But despite James' hope that the NDP Provincial Council will resolve the matter Saturday once and for all, that's extremely unlikely.
The Council is likely to reject those resolutions calling for Simpson's reinstatement and a full leadership convention next November based on its past support for James - although that is far from certain.
The reality is that until the membership has a decisive voice the split cannot be resolved.
I proposed in my 24 hours/The Tyee column this week that the Council move the scheduled November 2011 convention - where a leadership review vote will be held - to March in order to ensure resolution one way or the other before a possible snap election could be called by the new BC Liberal leader, who will be selected by February 26.
The questioning of James' leadership is based on her failure to win two consecutive elections, her falling personal approval rating in polls and the secret payment of a full-time salary to NDP President Moe Sihota, first disclosed here.
Another blow came with news that the BC Liberals' have risen to within 5% of the NDP in a new Mustel Group poll released today that was taken after Gordon Campbell's resignation.
James has also been criticized here and elsewhere for focusing on obtaining support from BC's business community while failing to build the party's falling membership and finances or articulate a progressive alternative to the BC Liberals.
Give James credit for consistency at least.
Despite internal fighting on Thursday she was speaking to the Surrey Chamber of Commerce, where she told a luncheon meeting that: "I commit to you, that you will have a partner in a New Democratic government. Our dialogue must continue, so that you know what we expect from you and you can tell us what you need and expect from us..."
But for now, James needs to worry about her partners in the NDP caucus and membership, a partnership that is in serious jeopardy.