Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The NDP manages somehow to excite

Jack Layton and Ed Broadbent take QuestionsImage by mattjiggins via Flickr
The NDP has got an interactive graphic up on their website outlining a point-by-point plan of how they can take on the Harper Conservatives, positioning themselves as the main alternative. Sure, a lot of it is just fantasy, the 'la-la land' stuff the NDP are famous for, but much of it seems somehow tantalisingly obtainable, and it's made me feel something I haven't felt about the NDP in a long time: excited.

In all likelihood, I'm probably a committed lifetime Dipper. There isn't any time so far in my adult life that I've seriously thought about voting for another party, and it's tough to see what could pry me from the NDP. At the moment the only party I could even concievably see myself voting for is the Greens. I know - everyone says that. But I doubt I would. Just like everyone else.

Back to the NDP. I've never felt like wandering, but lately I've felt that the love has gone out of our relationship. I've been feeling uninspired by the NDP - at times they've seem wrongheadedly obstructionist, at times wrongheadedly compliant. They're off-message when they should be on, and on-message when they should be off. Sadly, they've lost their role as the 'conscience' of Parliament to, of all people, the Bloc. Suddenly the NDP have all of the trapping of being an 'establishment' party with none of the advantages.

I hate the idea of a Liberal-NDP merger. But what I love is the idea of a progressive party, that may or may not carry the name "NDP", that leftist Liberals can take seriously - one that Dion Liberals (where are they now?) can appreciate. Back in the eighties, Ed Broadbent embarrassed himself a little by predicting that the NDP and the PCs would squeeze the Liberals into irrelevance... er, not quite. Not then, anyway. But Michael Ignatieff is another John Turner (why do the Liberals ever trust Ontarians?) and Jack Layton is, well, kind of an Ed Broadbent. And the Liberal brand name has perhaps never been worse off than at present - even provincially, I don't think there's a single Liberal party on the ascendant. Will it last forever? Of course not. Will it last until the next election? Well, if it does, the results might be tantalising. With proper momentum, if an election were called now, I could see, within 90 days, the NDP pulling within reach of official opposition status. And that would be interesting.

The ndp.ca graphic highlights some interesting trends: clearly, a massive increase in NDP seats has to come in large part from where it's always come from: the West. In particular, the non-Alberta West. The news is crazy good in BC, and Saskatchewan might... just might... come back into the fold. I've been watching NDP numbers slowly inch up in Québec over the months, and while I take those numbers with a grain of salt, I discovered something completely unexpected yesterday in a Léger Marketing poll: currently, the NDP is polling higher among francophones in la Belle Province than among anglo/allos. I certainly didn't see that coming... but it may be indicative of something that could potentially happen in much larger numbers: long-term Liberals disenchanted with their party giving the NDP a second thought. As silly merger talk carries on, this might be the real 'merge' - a drift of individual votes from the Liberals to the NDP. I doubt permanently, but this time round. And if so, that could give the NDP a real legitimacy. And if that happens, two very important things could happen: (1) people flirting with the NDP might not develop their traditional last-minute cold feet come election day, and (2) people flirting with the Greens might let their cold feet turn them orange. If the next election turns into a referendum on Harper, as it's inevitably bound to be, and if we get a lot of 'ABC' tactical voting talk, well this time around 'ABC' might not be a mere synonym for 'Liberal'. And then? Well who knows?

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