I’ll go back to my regularly scheduled Conserva-bashing in short order, not to worry. But in the mean time I couldn’t resist highlighting these comments from former NDP MP Lorne Nystrom, as they validate some of the arguments I’ve been making for some time.
The argument? That the NDP doesn’t necessarily see an election as a moral imperative, they see it as an issue to bash the Liberals over. And their strategy isn’t about holding Harper to account; it’s about helping the Conservatives in painting Dion as weak.
Former New Democratic MP Lorne Nystrom, who is no longer directly involved with party strategy, said the NDP is clearly focused on keeping the Liberals on the defensive. Having asked swing Liberal voters in 2006 to "lend us your vote," Mr. Layton must prevent them from returning to their traditional patterns, he said.
Mr. Nystrom said that coming out early in favour of an election likely forces the Liberals to keep Parliament alive by abstaining on key confidence votes, making Stéphane Dion look like a weak leader.
I have no problem with the NDP strategy, except for the fact that I think it benefits the Harper Conservatives more than it benefits the NDP. Nevertheless, from a purely strategic point of view it’s a good strategy for
I just wish the NDP supporters would get off their moral high horses, painting themselves as the party that doesn’t play politics, the righteous defenders of all that is holy and right, and the puppy dogs and the kitty cats. Bollocks. The NDP plays politics like everyone else. Indeed, in my experience they play it even more. And that’s fine, just don’t try to pretend that you don’t, and that you’re better then that, is all I’m saying. It’s a tad nauseating.
Which brings me to these last interesting comments from Lorne:
Because the NDP and the Liberals regularly fight over the same voters, Mr. Nystrom said, the NDP likely senses the Liberals are in a position of weakness at the moment that is not necessarily visible in the national polling and may not last.
"It may be worse to go [to the polls] later," Mr. Nystrom said.
"If the economy gets worse and the election isn't held until fall and there's an anti-Conservative mood in the country, then usually what happens is people seek the largest alternative party, which is the Liberals. ... If you have an early election, it may be too soon for the Liberals and work to the NDP's advantage."
This is an interesting theory, and one I hadn’t considered before, but it makes sense. I’ve been saying that because of the parliamentary math and Liberal unwillingness to force an election the NDP have been able to beat the electoral war drums without consequence, safe in the knowledge that the Liberals are going to prop-up anyway. Which is true. But I’ve also been saying the NDP don’t really want an election, given their really crappy polling numbers, which as the article notes have often been below their turnout in the last election.
Lorne’s theory is also interesting, however. And it punches an even wider hole in the NDP’s supposedly viewing an election as a moral imperative. It’s not principle. It’s political calculation. They deride the Liberals for wanting to wait until the polls are better for them, when it would seem the NDP may want to go now is because they think the polls will get worse for them. It’s all just politics.
All that said; in closing let me backtrack for a moment on the NDP strategy, namely keeping the Liberals on the defensive and making the Liberals look weak. You know what? We are on the defensive, and we do look weak.
I was advocating a pre-budget non-confidence vote. Even if the Conservatives wouldn’t have likely procedurally blocked it, it looks like the Liberals have ruled that out anyway. The next test is the budget, and we’re going to wait to see what’s in it before we decide.
Which is a fine position to take, in the sense that coming out against the budget before we’ve seen it is just crass politics (see above) and it’s better to keep the Cons on their toes. Whatever is in the budget though, I don’t see how we can possibly vote for it.
You could argue we should wait for the fall to build momentum from the hoped-for by-election victories, getting Bob Rae and Martha Hall-Findlay in the HoC and, as Lorne postulates, a weakening economy solidifying the anti-Con vote. That’s all well and good.
To get there, though, you’ve got to get past this budget, which would mean more of this abstention nonsense, and I don’t see how we can keep getting away with that. You can argue that no one outside the
Strategically, while things may get better tactically for the Liberals, they could also get much worse. Harper isn’t going to keep shooting himself in the foot forever. As I’ve argued before, a Liberal minority is within reach. And, even if moral imperatives have no place in politics, I think getting Harper out of government sooner rather than later would be a good thing. Particularly if the economy is worsening.
An election on the budget is a tough road to take, particularly since it’s sure to be filled with electoral goodies. That’s why I’d wanted to go pre-budget. It’s still better than the alternative though. It’s time to bring this government down. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers