Carole James has resigned as leader of the troubled BC NDP, blaming infighting in the opposition party.

The announcement was made at a hastily called press conference in Victoria on Monday, when she said she will step down as soon as an interim leader is elected, blaming squabbling among her caucus.

James said the decision wasn't an easy one, but disagreements surrounding her leadership had caused the party to grind to a halt.

"Over the last two months we've seen some members of our caucus decide to use their time and energy infighting instead of working on behalf of British Columbians," she told reporters.

"My time and energy is leader is consumed by infighting, and that's not right."

A so-called "baker's dozen" of 13 dissident MLAs has been publicly lobbying for James to resign.

"I know there will be individuals who will see this as a win for the bullies and that goes any part of my moral fibre," James said. But she added that it would be far worse for the party to lose 13 people.

James said the ball is now in the dissidents' court, and she had a message for them: "It's your responsibility to step back and get some work done."

She said she was proud of her record as leader, and expects the party to make a decision on interim leadership in the New Year.

"I spent my entire life working and building things, not complaining and taking them apart," James said.

"It is time for all caucus members to find a way to unite to serve British Columbians."

Esquimalt-Royal Roads representative Maurine Karagianis was the only NDP MLA to attend James's announcement.

Karagianis described James as a "tremendous leader" but said she respected her decision to step down.

"Many things that we believe in have been sidelined while this infighting was going on," Karagianis said. "I think this is a very sad day for all of us."

Weeks of trouble for the NDP

The news comes a day after an emergency caucus meeting was abruptly called off in favour of "private discussions" about dissent within the party.

James's announcement marks a change of heart for the embattled leader, who announced last week that she would not be stepping down in response to growing dissent within the New Democrats.

On Wednesday, the party's longest serving MLA, Jenny Kwan, called for James to relinquish power.

The Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant MLA said that James has had seven years to prove herself to British Columbians, but instead has made the party "irrelevant in the hearts and minds" of voters.

After James announced her resignation, Kwan issued a statement thanking her for her leadership.

"She has served British Columbia well," Kwan wrote.

"This has been a difficult time for our party. I look forward to the democratic renewal of our party, including a one-member-one-vote leadership convention in the New Year."

A poll released Nov. 19 by Mustel Group Masket Research revealed that James's public approval rating had fallen significantly since Premier Gordon Campbell's resignation.

In a telephone survey of 502 people conducted in the first half of November, only 33 per cent of respondents said they approved of James's performance, down from 42 per cent in September.

Last month, Kwan was one of three MLAs who stood behind caucus whip Katrine Conroy as she resigned her position. Conroy said she was leaving because she felt she no longer had the support of her leader or the NDP caucus.

Conroy's move followed the resignation of former caucus chairman Norm MacDonald, who left in response to James's decision to boot MLA Bob Simpson from caucus for criticizing her leadership.

On Nov. 20, delegates at the party's provincial council meeting rejected a plan to hold a leadership convention next year by a count of 97 to 18.

James has been unable to propel her party to control of the legislature.

James has led the New Democrats since 2003, and was elected as MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill two years later. Before that, she served for 11 years as a Victoria school trustee and then as president of the B.C. School Trustee Association.