Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Journalists Do On A Slow Newsday

They speculate on leadership races to come. Its a harmless past-time though, generally speaking, a sign that nothing much is really going to happen in Ottawa over the course of the next few days.

And L Ian MacDonald does get about 3/4 of the conventional wisdom right: Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe, and Stephen Harper--barring an increasingly unlikely Harper majority-will be gone after the next election. What I think he gets quite wrong is:

For Michael Ignatieff, who'll be 64 next year, his first campaign as Liberal leader will be his only kick at the can. The Liberal party will not give him a second chance, and the best he can hope for is to form a minority government.

This is asserted, not argued for, and since I'm feeling a bit lazy this morning, I'll just use MacD's own words to argue against him:

The problem for the Liberals in any leadership scenario is the thinness of the field. Bob Rae would be there for one last try. For Justin Trudeau, it's way too soon, as he would be the first to acknowledge. Dominic Leblanc? Yeah, right. Denis Coderre? Yikes.

The Liberals have another problem, other than a paucity of talent and new blood on the front bench, and that's money. It has taken candidates from the 2006 leadership four years to pay off their debts. The party itself is perpetually broke, and would be hard-pressed to raise the money to stage a three-day leadership convention.

Exactly, and that's why--barring an increasingly unlikely Harper Majority--the Federal Libs will keep Iggy around for at least one more cycle. There are other reasons, too.

Assuming another minority, where an election can come at any time, swapping leaders is a perilous course. Who wants to be stuck between when the writ is dropped? This is the same unfortunate logic that originally got Iggy into the post without a contested leadership race, and like it or not, it still applies.

More importantly, dumping leaders after every unsatisfactory election result tends to suggest that, at its core, the party is merely opportunistic--we'll try some of this and, heck, if this doesn't work, we'll try some of that. Successful parties typically make an investment in their leader that extends beyond one cycle. Think Dalton McGuinty in Ontario.

So, Iggy it is, for as far as it is possible to see. Better improve the flawed leader currently in place than start all over again.

12 comments:

Glenn said...

Better improve the flawed leader currently in place than start all over again.

Heh, and perhaps, think about another selection process that actually involves people choosing their leader the next time instead of appointing them. Radical idea I know, but what they hey?

Robert McClelland said...

Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe, and Stephen Harper--barring an increasingly unlikely Harper majority-will be gone after the next election.

This is nonsense. Harper will remain as long as he's Prime Minister. Barring health reasons or an unexpected collapse in NDP support, Layton has another kick at the can. And there's nothing that suggests Ducceppe won't hang around too. About the only thing I can see causing a mass turnover of leaders is if Harper gets a majority. Then I could see Layton, Ducceppe and Ignatieff going since there'd be more time to move in fresh blood.

Jerome Bastien said...

Well, that's an interesting theory, and it would be a significant shift for the federal Libs to keep on a losing leader. But you never know and the reasons you highlighted are not insignificant. There's also the french-english unwritten rule of the Liberal party, meaning your next leader COULD be Denis Coderre (Im saying this with compassion, not derision).

As for Harper, the only people who suggests that he *must* go unless he wins a majority are his biggest detractors. He's staying on unless he loses.

Duceppe/Layton: For Layton it's a health issue, for Duceppe it's an availability of PQ Leadership issue.

Ted Betts said...

I think Harper stays unless he loses government - in which case he is for certain gone - or loses a lot of seats even if he stays in government - in which case he will be gone before the next election unless he pulls a Trudeau. The one thing I don't see Harper wanting to do is lose though: if he sees his chances of winning an election after the next one, like Mulroney, he will abandon his caucus to save his own skin.

Layton will be around for some time. He and Olivia have nowhere to go. Duceppe is past his prime so he won't step down anytime soon for the same reason.

What each of these three have in common and the biggest reason they will still be there when the dust settles is that there is a paucity of talent to run and replace. Worse for the Conservatives, Harper's iron grip on everything means that none of them really have the profile or the guts to present themselves as an alternative except for someone like Bernier who is working hard at it.

MacDonald shows he doesn't really know what he's talking about when he talks about the Liberals. They certainly have a lot less money than the Conservative Goliath, but they are not bankrupt and they, unlike the Conservatives, have plenty of talent. They are ready to govern with a great front bench, many of whom could easily step in as leader or run for it: Rae, Brison, Goodale (who has been brushing up on his French), McGuinty, Kennedy, LeBlanc, Cauchon for starters. And lots of lingering Liberals not in Parliament too.

Northern PoV said...

Any article that dismisses one major party with a few unsupported toss-off lines and then dwells lovingly on the pipsqueaks on the other side cannot be taken seriously.
The blog post here and the comments are a lot more insightful than this con-shrill.

Tof KW said...

Robert McClelland said...
This is nonsense. Harper will remain as long as he's Prime Minister.

Depending on the size of the win, I disagree. Over 130 ridings then yes I'll agree with you and he stays as PM. But Harper's down to his core right now (30% is the core, hovering at 32-33% is nothing for the Cons to cheer about) and most of his support is in places he really doesn't need it. If an election were held right now, I would expect the CPC to only pick up ~120 seats; the Libs would be somewhere around 90-95, the NDP anywhere at 25-35 (depends on the poll) and the BQ around 50-55 (probably gaining all the the CPC seats around Quebec City). Look at those numbers - if Harper managed to hang on it would be a very fragile minority with a much bolder opposition. I see that 'iron grip' starting to rust and CPC members beginning to openly panic. An option they will entertain is to dump Harper and pick a new leader, who automatically then becomes PM. The momentum from a new leader with a clean break from Firewall Harper would allow them to call a new election right after the leadership vote, saying they now need a new mandate from the electorate with a new leader - a fair arguement. Depending on who they select (worst case for the Libs is if they pick someone sensible like Bernard Lord) and how they play things, the CPC could have a shot at a majority.

Your comments about Layton, Ducceppe and Ignatieff, that I agree with. Layton is staying unless the NDP drops below 25 ridings in a future election, then all bets are off. After Ducceppe who does the Bloc have? He leaves whenever he wants. And Harper winning a majority (highly improbable now) is the only thing which will cause Iggy to leave after only one election try.


Jerome Bastien said...
Well, that's an interesting theory, and it would be a significant shift for the federal Libs to keep on a losing leader.

Jerome, ever hear of a guy called John Turner?

jmburton said...

"Assuming another minority, where an election can come at any time, swapping leaders is a perilous course. Who wants to be stuck between when the writ is dropped?"

generally true, i think, but there is at least one instance where a leader elected during an election won - Ed Shreyer in Manitoba

Ted Betts said...

"generally true, i think, but there is at least one instance where a leader elected during an election won - Ed Shreyer in Manitoba"

How about Trudeau in 1980. He had resigned and the leadership race was gearing up when Clark forgot Grade 1 math and take advantage of a perceived tired and leaderless opposition, and the Libs decided they had to stick with Trudeau.

bigcitylib said...

TofkW:
"Layton is staying unless the NDP drops below 25 ridings in a future election, then all bets are off"

See, I've heard that there are some elements within the party that have decided that if he can't get them any further ahead this time out, somebody else should be given a shot. Not that I have a particular in with the NDP, but that's what I've heard. There is also the health issue but he appears to have bounced back from that.

Tof KW said...

BCL, I don't have any 'ins' either with the NDP. I do have two friends involved in the local riding association here, neither of which is partial to Layton's leadership. They both tell me he'd probably survive a leadership review, barring a significant drop in seat numbers. Nowhere near authoritative, but out of any NDPers I know who could possibly say that Layton is done if he can't move the party ahead, it would be these two.

And even though these words are pure speculation, that makes them no less authoritative than L Ian MacDonald's.

Shiner said...

TofKW, Bernard Lord!? You give them far too much credit. We're about to see a break like they've had in the Republican party with Bernier playing Sarah Palin. Unlike the Republican Party though, this party has a history of walking away from eachother. In the case of a weak Harper minority or defeat I'm stocking up on popcorn.

Tof KW said...

Well a Red Tory can dream, no?

No of course the Reformatories will not do the sensible thing and elect a smart, young eastern Tory to the leadership; thereby creating a big blue tent party which moderate, non-polarized Canadians could comfortably vote for.

Nope, they will listen to 'the base' and pick someone else from Alberta. Either that or Maxime Bernier.

And whenever that leadership vote finally happens the Liberals should feel comfortable knowing the CPC will shoot themselves in the foot ...again.