Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sometimes, You Have To Speak Ill Of The Dead


Yesterday, Tom Walkom published an interesting piece on the trials and tribulations of Tom Mulcair. They are, Walkom wrote, not all Mulcair's fault. A lot of the blame can be laid at Jack Layton's feet:

As someone with a record on the party’s left, Layton was uniquely positioned to drag the NDP rightward — which he did with great skill.
Long-time policies that had little resonance with voters, such as one calling for Canada to pull out of NATO, were quietly jettisoned.

On the symbolic side, Layton set in motion the process that would finally expunge any reference to “social ownership” from the party’s constitution.

More to the point, he and his team of bright, modern politicos refocused the party on winning seats. Target demographics were identified and policies created to appeal to them.

Balancing the budget (except during severe economic downturns) was enshrined as part of official NDP policy. As Mulcair would do later, Layton hewed religiously to fiscal conservatism.
During the 2008 election campaign, even as the world economy was collapsing and government revenues with it, Layton’s NDP — like the Liberals and Conservatives — promised a balanced budget.

When Mulcair also promised a balanced budget, he left an opening for Justin Trudeau's Liberals to run to the left of the NDP. It was a huge strategic error. But it was not just Mulcair's strategic error.

Among New Democrats, there has been a movement to canonize Layton. But there will be no renewal for Dippers until they completely come to terms with his legacy.

Sometimes, you have to speak ill of the dead.


Steve said...

I will forever blame Layton for foisting Harper on us. Had he not brought down the Martin goverment. Harper may never have become PM. And in the end the tactical move led to a stratigic loss.

Lorne said...

I don't know if you have read Linda McQauigs reflections on her political foray, Owen, but it makes for an interesting companion piece to Walkom's insights:

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Lorne. It makes for very interesting reading. Perhaps, as McQuaig suggests, all parties make the mistake of avoiding complexity. Voters are smarter than the powers that be think they are.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Steve. Layton made Harper possible. That conclusion is unavoidable.

The Mound of Sound said...

Especially since Mulcair led them back to the basement, New Dems have been like a bear with a raw ass in black fly season at the mere mention of St. Jack's perfidy. Oh they love to point out how it was Iggy who, again and again, supported Harper. What they would prefer to obscure is how that dynamic changed come election time. That was when first Layton and then Mulcair became Harper's handmaidens, the price of pursuing their foremost objective - crushing the Liberals. I think the Tories could have had a Trump as their leader and Layton would have carried his water once the writ dropped.

Harper's overriding objective was to shift Canada's political centre far and permanently to the Right. Both the Layton/Mulcair New Dems and the Ignatieff Liberals went along with that, the Libs becoming Conservative-Lites and the NDP transforming itself into Latter Day Liberals. The Left was abandoned, undefended. No one would fight for labour. No one would attack inequality. On and on and on. It was the heyday for neoliberalism in Canada. Those three bastards were the culprits who helped Harper at every turn.

So strong was their quest for power that the large majority of Dippers were ready to jettison their foundational principles as first Layton, then Mulcair set about to Blairify the NDP. Then, like Icarus, they got a tad too close to the sun only to discover Canadians felt they didn't need more than one liberal party.

Now they've got the cloying Angry Beard whose instincts have never been Leftist working feverishly to hold onto his job, knowing that he's burned his bridges with every other party, having served in or flirted with them all on his meandering political career. I fear the Dippers are too obtuse to realize that Mulcair has shown them his hand repeatedly. An example: Bill C-51. When it surfaced it was Elizabeth May who promptly denounced it and for obvious reasons. Mulcair held back, waited to get a sense of which way the wind might blow and how he could best position himself, and then - his political calculus complete - then he rose up in a "principled" opposition to the Bill. He invariably does that and you don't have to be clever to realize that Mulcair's position will inevitably rest on his perception of his personal political advantage. He's a huckster.

Owen Gray said...

Huckterism, unfortunately, is what our politics is all about, Mound. Voters are no longer citizens. They are customers.