I’ve been mulling Quico’s unusual screed from the other day, in which he harshly criticized Henrique Capriles and wondered out loud how long he was going to last as leader of the opposition.
The reason it seemed so unusual for me is that Quico is someone well versed in the art of parliamentary politics. I mean, he even lives in one!
As it happens, Henrique Capriles is the leader of the opposition in a similar way as David Cameron is the leader of the British Conservative Party. As such, Capriles has to juggle many interest groups, and keep his coalition intact. There are the fire-breathers and the appeasers, the dinosaurs and the students, and everyone in between.
So far, Capriles has done a masterful job of keeping this coalition together. The MUD is still the MUD, and unity inside the opposition is strong. Sure, sometimes he makes mistakes, and other times he steps on people’s toes, but all in all, the fact that we have united mayoral candidates with few dissenters is beyond surprising.
Leaders of coalitions have their good days, and their not-so-good days – just ask Cameron. Today, his own Parliament rejected his plea for authorization of military action against Syria.
If there is one thing observers of parliamentary democracy know, it’s that leadership positions can be called into question, poked and taunted, but you don’t remove leaders at a whim because that simply undermines the whole idea of coalition building. David Cameron will not lose his job over this.
Quico should know it takes a political earthquake to bring leaders down, something Margaret Thatcher or Gordon Brown know all too well. Sometimes it’s a lost election. Other times it’s a serious political mistake. And other times it’s simply the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Capriles is nowhere near this level of danger. After the April election, most in the MUD view him as a stronger leader, not as a weaker one. Yes, there are grumblings. No, they are not serious. Capriles will live to see many more days at the helm of the MUD, as surely as Cameron will go back to Downing Street tomorrow.
There may come a time when calls for a change of leadership from backbenchers such as us will carry some weight. Right now is not that time.