That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

The zombie we know

Jeffrey Simpson today wonders, in his article “Sure, there’s a leadership death watch – but for which leader?” which Canadian party leader is most likely to be dumped by his party in the short to medium term: is it the LPC’s Michael Ignatieff, or the CPC’s Stephen Harper?

I might say “God willing, Harper’s days are numbered.” Surely any major party leader who fails to secure a majority government after a fourth attempt has got to be considered damaged goods? And wouldn’t we all be better off without him?

Then again (and there’s always a “then again”): Harper’s leadership puts a helpful air-brake on what might otherwise have been Conservative majority government in Canada. Given the public’s disenchantment with the soap-operatic, scandal-prone Liberals after 13 years in power, it’s more than possible that the newly-united Conservatives should have had a decent shot at securing a majority government.

Perhaps it is Canadians’ nausea at Harper’s dull authoritarianism that’s really prevented his party from soaring to mind-numbing, majority-gobbling heights? So, the progressive Canadian might say to the conservative, “Keep Harper on! Without him, you just might win big.”

Which all avoids the main question. Are the Tories likely to replace Harper if they fail to improve on their 2008 electoral performance at the next opportunity? They must be sorely tempted. If they were an NHL franchise, their coach would be surprised to still have the code to the door.

But whatever the CPC is, it’s a strategic beast, and it understands its own vulnerabilities. They can see that the big Liberal tent is divided as ever by its ancient tribal factions: red Tories, blue Liberals, and ambitious social democrats who eschewed the NDP’s lack of career mobility. A caucus that can’t support their own bills, members riven between petty filial devotions to sub-leaders and pretenders throughout the party. At least as far as it does appear.

Canada’s Tories must recognise that their party is, by its own nature, even more prone to divisive infighting. It is, lest we forget, a re-married couple (not re-married for love, but for money). Its vast Reform-leaning instincts run against the old PC grain with a friction that could become all too heated – without Harper’s authoritarian approach to party discipline.

In the public view, there are certainly better liked Tories than Stephen Harper, and there are doubtlessly ones who could personally poll in the high 30s, or potentially beyond. Harper’s MP-gagging, parliament-proroguing, evidence-censoring, fixed-term-trashing, Senate-stacking ways run counter to any straight-faced definition of an “accountable government,” and Canadians in their great assembled majority know that.

But if the CPC doubts there is anyone amongst their tribe with the requisite ruthlessness to contain the boiling, mutually-antagonistic forces within their sprawling Reform-PC motley crew, they may stick with the minority-prone devil they know and suck up whatever little victories they can, one by one. The test for Canada’s Left is not to go insane in the meantime.


Filed under: Canada, Politics, , ,

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