I know, I know. I’d forgotten there was any Democrats MPs left too, but David Winderlich is the sole remaining Democrat MP, holding a seat in South Australia’s Legislative Council after taking over from Sandra Kanck last November.
The party appears to be effectively dead, with a small rump of activists keeping the party going. In a desperate move, Winderlich has threatened the party that he will resign if they don’t recruit 100 members by the end of November.
“The Democrats have a proud history. Our achievements include banning tobacco print advertising, introducing World Heritage legislation, calling for a national takeover of the Murray back in 2001, and securing the independence of the ABC.
“We have always supported country SA by fighting against Government cuts to health and education services, and by opposing the centralisation of Government jobs in the city.
“But the Democrats’ membership, resources and morale have been declining for years.
“1,000 new members will secure the future of the party and ensure that South Australia has a genuine third choice.
“This bold strategy is the only way to revive the Democrats – and no one will be recruiting harder than me.
“But if the party does not embrace this challenge, or if the community does not respond, it will prove that the Democrats’ time has passed and I and others will have to look for a new way to keep Democrat values alive.
It seems a pretty unlikely strategy to work. Although to be fair, I don’t know what else you’d do in his position. If he’s a Democrat or an Independent, it doesn’t make much difference. He doesn’t have any sort of support from a real party, and has practically no chance of winning election in 2010. Might as well go for it.
What seems even stranger is the response from the party’s President, who has gone for the angle of savaging the sole shred of relevance the party still has.
The Australian Democrats were notified this morning of David Winderlich’s challenge – recruit 1,000 members or he will go independent.
National President Julia Melland rejected this ultimatum as a massive sign of disloyalty to the party, and demanded Mr Winderlich resign his seat in parliament immediately.
“We owe David Winderlich nothing. We are not going to rush our rebuilding plans just because he clearly doesn’t believe in the party.
“He would not be in parliament if it weren’t for the Australian Democrats allowing him that privilege, and as he does not respect those who have given him that privilege, he should resign his seat in parliament immediately.”
The Democrats seem to be attempting a “rebuilding” plan:
Ms Melland said the party’s extensive rebuilding efforts are going well, and are currently focused on fixing the underlying structural problems that resulted in the party’s decline.
“Previously the party membership was largely focused on support for an individual Senators and other parliamentarians, and the functions of the party largely dependent on their staff. As part of our rebuild plans we have been expressly working towards an organisational structure that is not dependent on the cult of personality.
“If we were to comply with Mr Winderlich’s ultimatum then we would only have more people who are members because they support him – rather than supporting the ideals of the party. This is not healthy for our long term prospects, and demonstrates the political naiveté of Mr Winderlich.”
“The Australian Democrats are far from dead. We have a very good strategic plan for rebuilding the party, guided by professional consultants, that is making good headway on what is a very tough road to resurgence. This latest act of disloyalty by Mr Winderlich is unfortunate, but will not disrupt our rebuilding plans.” Ms Melland concluded.
I think it’s safe to say this won’t have any success. There’s always a possibility for small political parties to grow into real forces as the Democrats, the DLP and the Greens have done in the past. But once you fall out of the sky, it’s impossible to rise again. I tend to think this is primarily because any serious political party has so much political baggage that it would not be able to rise from nothing. Small political parties are able to rise by people not having a lot of grudges against them. The Democrats are dead.
This wouldn’t be so funny if it was serious.