Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Easy lads, dial it down a notch

Back in the summer, I urged the Liberal caucus to find its stones and start providing a passionate, forceful opposition. I’m pleased to say that this fall they’ve done exactly that. Their performance has improved markedly. They’ve really been taking it to the Harper Conservatives, and I think it has paid dividends. But they need to be careful not to overdo it.

There’s a line between forceful, passionate opposition and going overboard and becoming slightly cartoonish. Cross it and you look silly, people start not to listen to your legitimate points, and you let the government off the hook. Lately, I fear that line is being crossed from time to time.

Take yesterday’s QP, where the dominating topic was Harper’s manufactured dispute with China and his world debut as the first Canadian PM in history to have ever heard of human rights. Definitely lots of ground for strong opposition here, we should take it to the Cons on this issue.

I think Bill Graham was a bit over the top at times though. Like when he said Harper scored a “big fat zero” making headway on getting consular access for a jailed Canadian in China, that Harper is “dangerously driven by preconceptions, deceptions, self-delusions and arrogance” or when he called Harper “a laughingstock.”

Then there was the environmental conference in Africa, where John Godfrey and a BQ MP went over to shadow enviro minister Rona Ambrose and remind people she doesn’t speak for all, or even most, Canadians. A fine idea. Forceful opposition. But “openly mocking” Ambrose during press conferences, laughing out loud while quoting her policies, and calling her positions “idiotic” and “ridiculous” crosses the line and isn’t particularly useful.

I’m not saying any of the points raised in these two examples aren’t true. I think they are. It’s HOW you make the point. This kind of vitrol only serves to distract attention from the legitimate points of our arguments, letting the government off the hook, as the focus instead becomes the attacks themselves, and their tenor. People also tune-out, writing it off as politics as usual.

Draw attention to the issue. Make the point clearly and forcefully, without vitriol and name-calling, and then let the people decide. Particularly as the government begins to step it in more and more in the months ahead. It’s the oldest rule of politics: when your opponent is screwing-up, stay out of the way and let them.

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Anonymous said...

I agree with you - that they're so excited to have something tangible to attack Harper with they've lost sight of what is far enough. Mind you, the Conservatives when in opposition were worse.

I find Mark Holland really good and I don't understand why he is supporting Kennedy when he should be running himself. He's way ahead of Kennedy as far as I am concerned.

Anonymous said...

What if Bob Rae became Leader?

Choose your record.

Olaf said...

Well put Jeff,

I agree. Over the top rhetoric takes away from the speakers credibility, not the credibility of their target.

Scott Neigh said...

Okay, so, I have no particular opinion on how the Liberal caucus should behave, and far be it for me to seem like I'm inflexible about colloquial figures of speech and all that...but, really, "lads"? What are the women in caucus supposed to do?

And, I know, just a turn of phrase, didn't mean to exclude, etc., etc....just thought I'd draw a wee bit of attention to it anyway.

Jeff said...

Oy. I'd add in lassies, but editing the title screws with the various aggregators. Plus I might then have people saying I'm calling female politicians dogs. Although, then Peter McKay might invite me out for beers. It's a catch 22.

Olaf said...

Is Scott serious? I can't tell...