Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How not to win new friends in a close election

The leader of the Liberal Party Michael Ignatieff will be humiliated in next Monday’s election if he fails to beat the New Democrats decisively in the popular vote and in the election of MPs. Right now Jack Layton’s New Democrats are surging and so Ignatieff must respond.
In effect, he must play Stephen Harper on the left: urging voters to go with the familiar, the time tested. This is tricky. It’s hard to be interesting—to get Canadians to “rise up”—and settle down at the same time. And Michael Ignatieff does not see himself as boring. Consequently, he reaches for extravagant language:
“People have had a nice time with the NDP, it’s a nice little taxi to get on for while; but you better take a look at how high that meter is going because the price keeps going up and up and up and up and I urge you to go home,” Ignatieff told approximately 300 Liberal supporters in the Prince Edward Island riding of Egmont.
“This is no time for amateur hour here. We could have NDP amateur hour or we can have competent responsible government.”
There is no accusation more likely to inflame and re-double the fighting spirit of a New Democrat than being called an amateur by a Liberal.
New Democrats, since their founding fifty years ago this June, swore they’d learn all the tricks of the “old line” parties, keep their principles, and, someday, win. They haven’t won but they’ve certainly mastered modern campaigning and have been generally faithful to a handful of demanding principles.
They’ve governed competently in difficult times and in five provincial settings. Jack Layton is (horrors!) a career politician. He’s served in electoral politics for 26 years, more than half in city council decision-making in Canada’s largest city.
Their platform may not be as precise as Ignatieff’s “Family Pack.”  However, neither one will fly with voters who will vote their economic concerns first. Furthermore, New Democrats have shown, in the crunch, that they’re neither amateurish nor unreliable.
On the persistent--and legitimate--issue of coalition government only Harper and Layton have been straightforward. They, of course, disagree. However, Layton hasn’t hidden behind the “Westminster model” with vague allusions to in camera discussions. He’s reiterated publicly that he would participate in a coalition.
New Democrats haven’t tried to make the “survival of democracy in Canada” a ballot issue. However, when Michael Ignatieff was living from pay cheque to pay cheque in London, they stood alone in the Canadian Parliament against the invocation of the War Measures Act and the suspension of normal civil liberties by a crushingly popular Liberal Prime Minister.

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