Talking to folks just out of Ottawa, and they say the feeling on the Hill is that Iggy is all bluster, and that there won't be any election call anytime soon... they think he's bluffing, counting on either the Bloc or the NDP to keep the House standing.
But with the Bloc launching some pretty effective attack ads
, seemingly prepping for an imminent election this fall (I mean, come on... when was the last time you recall the Bloc paying for PRE-WRIT ads?)
, I think Jack Layton has been presented with an interesting opportunity... one where he should go "All In"
and call Iggy's obvious bluff.
I've heard over and over that Layton's run as leader of the NDP is likely winding down. Yes, he's done fairly well, and has consistently increased their seat count with each election he's fought. I always hear some of my fellow Tories mocking him, but I personally think he's done a great job at solidifying the NDP as a real force in Canadian politics. If you think about it, with the Greens consistently eating 7-9% of the vote each election, the fact that Jack has managed to keep the NDP over the 15% mark is no small feat. He's solidified his base, and brought the party more into the mainstream, shedding much of their extremist persona in the process. While most Canadians would ever trust them with the levers of power, he has made the NDP "respectable" in many ways. But there are some rumblings in the fringes, some dissatisfaction with his methods, such that without a solid performance in any upcoming election, his era may be forced to an end.
As such, Jack Layton has been given a unique opening by Ignatieff, one that may help him and his party to edge out an even bigger beachhead within the traditional support base of the Liberal Party. Right now, the Liberal Party has in Ignatieff the furthest right leaning leader that we're likely going to see for a generation. As the Bloc's ads imply, a lot of his positions are, in reality, indistinguishable from Mr. Harper's. (I know many Liberals, and even some Tories will have issues with that statement, but in areas like Afghanistan, or the oil sands, they do have a lot of similar viewpoints... but again, my point is try to view this from a left or centre-left POV, as the Bloc ads are implying)
As such, if you really think about it, the NDP are pretty much never going to have it this good EVER AGAIN. Basically, the Liberals entire left-flank is completely exposed, and is extremely poachable right now. Seats like the one they lost to Gerard Kennedy could be back in play. Their Quebec beachhead in Outremont might be defensible. A few more seats in BC or Toronto could be in play, where a phalanx of left-leaning Liberals are all bent out of sorts with the undemocratic coronation of a man they view to be "Mr. Harper Lite"
as leader. Folks who are going to have a difficult time voting for His Royal Iggyness, and his cadre of advisers who have, in their minds, taken over their beloved Liberal Party.
With all that in mind, if he plays his cards right, Jack Layton may have just been handed his dream scenario on a silver platter. And so far, he HAS been playing them perfectly.
First off, instead of following Ignatieff's bluster with even more electoral rhetoric, he followed up with some level headed statements reiterating his desire to "make Parliament work". Instead of ratcheting things up, he set himself up as the level headed one who's actually in control of the situation. Right now, all the pundits and reporters are saying that Iggy has boxed himself in and left himself without any options, while in the next breath stating that Jack is the one who's holding all the cards. Should he continue down the road as being the levelheaded one, he'll be the one in the spotlight... and for Jack, getting any coverage is a good thing for him and his Party.
Secondly, once Parliament actually resumes, all the focus will still be on him. He'll be able to say that he made an effort to make Parliament work, and that his Party has been the mature and responsible one, and he'll be able to paint Iggy and his Liberals as being the ones playing childish partisan games, thanks to all of Iggy's bluster this past week. With his record of being "The Effective Opposition"
intact, having voted against the Government consistently, he won't get tagged as being the one who brings the House down... that blame will fall squarely on the Liberals, who have been the ones holding up the House. There's almost no way he can possibly lose on that front once the House resumes sitting.
Thirdly, by then telegraphing in advance his intention to continue opposing the Harper Government, and with the Bloc appearing to be itching for a fight, he'll have thrown it all right back into Iggy's lap. Should the polling numbers of the last week continue, with the Liberals on the slide and our support numbers solidifying, Iggy will be forced to pick and swallow the lesser of two evils... either pull the plug and go into a suicidal election campaign, or back down yet again like the toothless paper tiger that he is.
Both unpalitable options for the Liberals, but one that's entirely Ignatieff's fault, for trying to bluff his way up in the polls with all his false bravado.
Either way you look at it, Jack comes out smelling like roses in this one. Either he forces Iggy to back down and wear another dozen eggs on his face, or he gets an election where he stands to make gains with a good and focused campaign. Since his career is likely over after the next campaign should their seat count go down, it's time to make a bold move. If he waits until the Liberals are ready, there's no way that he'll be able to hang on to many of the seats he currently holds, because the Liberals are going to wait until their numbers show that the NDP isn't a threat. Whereas right now, the NDP IS a significant threat, and the Liberals in reality don't want an election right now.
With Iggy sitting at the big boys table, untested in battle, and trying to bluff his way to a win holding a pair of twos, now's the time for Jack to say that he's "All In", call Ignatieff's bluff, and go for broke.
Because I think he has more to gain than he has to lose right now.
Labels: election, iggy, Jack Layton, Liberals, NDP