Monday, December 28, 2015

Will the Party "That Never Expects to Win" Let Mulcair Stay On?

The Tyee's parliamentary reporter, Jeremy Nuttall, thinks Tom Mulcair will survive a leadership review at the party's convention in April. Why? According to Nuttall, it's because the NDP is the party "that never expects to win."

Some argue, convincingly, that Mulcair is just Tony Blair only with a maple leaf and that he has to go:

University of Manitoba political science professor Radhika Desai said the New Democrats made a move to the right over the last few years, much like former United Kingdom Labour Party leader and prime minister Tony Blair with his party in the 1990s.

Desai said it didn't work. "The chief reason for Mulcair to go is that this is not his game," she said. "His game was the Blairite, right wing, game. He played it in the election and it failed dismally."

Now, said Desai, the party is looking inward and must decide if it thinks such a strategy is wise to pursue again.

Ethan Cox, a former NDP director in Quebec and an editor at the digital media outlet Ricochet, said he quit the party in 2012 over concerns about Mulcair being elected as leader.

Cox said the party lost the number of seats it did in October because it didn't offer any vision to the electorate and was more concerned with not appearing too far to the left on the political spectrum to protect its lead. He blames that squarely on Mulcair and his team.

"What we saw in 2015 was exactly the kind of campaign Tom Mulcair wants to run," he said. "I don't think we have any indication that he's going to do anything differently next election."

Cox also pointed to what he calls a "disconnect" with the grassroots NDP base on issues of social democracy, citing the removal of two candidates this year that had criticized Israel in the past and say they were forced out because of their views.

The NDP has traditionally had some members openly sympathetic towards or pro-Palestinian on the issue, but Mulcair has tilted the party more toward one that staunchly supports Israel, Cox said.

"It's one thing for Tom Mulcair to be very pro-Israel; it's one thing for him to move the party's position on it," he said. But the forcing out of candidates with a differing opinion, where their positions are more in line with the traditional position of the party, he said, "I think that really affected the base and the goodwill of the base."

Others contend that most New Dems are content to languish in the centre/centre-right spectrum preferred by Mulcair even at the sacrifice of traditional progressivism because they're a forgiving lot accustomed to dwelling in the basement.

But history is not on the side of those opposed to Mulcair's continued leadership, according to one watcher of Canadian politics.

University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman said the chances of Mulcair leaving or being pushed out are virtually non-existent.

Wiseman said while the Liberals and Conservatives tend to oust leaders who lose, that's only because they are in contention for government every election. It's a different reality among New Democrats.

"The NDP does not have the tradition of ever getting rid of a leader," Wiseman said. "The NDP never expects to win; this was the first election in which they thought they had a chance. It didn't happen."


Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say about the NDP, especially in light of Mulcair's performance in the last election.
He went from peak to trough in a matter of weeks and this should not be tolerated.
However, I respect the guy, so what was it with the NDP structure that allowed Mulcair to take a basic platform and have it crushed?
Perhaps the structure of the NDP itself is more at fault than 'Mulcair the messenger'. I've tried to help the NDP, propose new ideas and the inner circle of extreme bureaucrats and union loyalists weaken the NDP.
Ultimately, Canadians need to ask: do we need the NDP?

crf said...

Mulcair is not resigning, and is deliberately testing the NDP. The NDP passes if it grows a spine and dismisses him. It fails if it proves so weak that it allows Mulcair to continue his domination.

Would you vote for the wimpy party? I wouldn't.

chris said...

Silencing the left has always been part of the neo-liberal strategy.

Things are going well.

For some.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Anon - I suppose we were left asking the same question about whether BC still needs the NDP after Adrian Dix was trounced by Christy Clark. Of course in BC politics there are only two viable parties.

Does Canada still need the federal NDP? Not as a centre/centre-right party. It has a role to play if it acknowledges its progressive principles and returns to the left but that seems unlikely so long as it sticks with the Layton/Mulcair convention.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ CRF - I agree entirely. The path they're on ensures their irrelevance.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Chris 2:15 You need to come to your senses. It wasn't some neoliberal coup that silenced the left within the NDP. That was the handiwork of Layton and Mulcair.

chris said...

Mound, I didn't say there was a coup, I said there was a strategy. What I didn't say, but should've I guess, is that it was ably implemented by Layton and Mulcair. So we're on the same page, it was indeed the handiwork of those two professional politicians.

Professional politicians, in my opinion, are none of the things they might claim to be; they're just managers. The job entails consolidating the wealth of the planet and shipping it to the owners. Everything else is just window dressing to divert the rubes, us. As I said, it seems to be working.

So, here: Make yourself a hat like mine. Trust me it works. So far anyway.

Happy New Year!

The Mound of Sound said...

And a happy new year to you, Chris. Sorry, I misunderstood your point. John Ralston Saul contends neoliberalism is a false democracy in which political leadership is displaced by the administration of technocrats. Harper was the ultimate example of that. He campaigned on the strength of his supposed "competence" and his newspaper election endorsements echoed that same 'petit fonctionnaire' theme.

Scotian said...


Part of the problem of returning to being the party of social democracy and of the had progressive left the NDP faces is that they have proven they can be tempted by the pursuit of power to abandon such goals. Worse, they showed it when that long, decades in fact, loyalty to principles first was about to finally pay off back in in the mid 2000s. If Layton had instead not given Harper the political cover to bring down Martin (Harper clearly did not want to be solely responsible for that act with only the BQ on his side, he needed the NDP for cover even if he didn't need them for raw numbers), it is likely the next election some months later might well have returned another Lib government, probably minority, and the CPC would have deposed Harper and gone into a long term internal faction fight to redefine who they were after his failure. Then, in the next election the Libs almost certainly would have lost with the NDP being seen as the next most ready party, and one that showed maturity in passing up the easy path to power by siding with Harper despite the risks of his ascending to power and instead protecting Canada and Canadians from such as he.

Now the NDP have to start that groundwork from scratch, and they have proven that expediency in the search of power is a part of their political culture now. That is going to have a significant impact on their ability to return to being what they once were. A lot of those that trusted them and stood by them for decades as fellow travelers and believers are not going to be so willing nor able to trust that this new NDP is for them even after it reforms itself.

The NDP did itself a lot of damage in that decade long project of becoming Lib-lite to replace the Libs, not just in their de facto alliance with Harper to wipe out the Libs but also in terms of what they showed their base in what they would do when power was finally starting to seem like a real possibility to them. What they would sacrifice in that pursuit.

Even if it boots Mulcair and seeks a new leader and revamps itself the NDP has a long hard road to hoe. If it doesn't replace Mulcair and lets him stay in place after what he has shown he lacks as a leader where campaigning in elections is concerned, what he lacks in adaptability, what he lacks as being anything other than a centrist Liberal with some NDP lite flavour to his approach to politics, that road becomes all but impossible I believe. The NDP as it current exists federally serves no valuable purpose, which is truly a sad commentary on what the last decade worth of prostituting their values for power and for Harper to gain and hold power got not just them but us all. It is one of the reasons some will never trust the NDP again and hold a long term grudge who once would have either been Dippers or willing to consider them federally.

Ben Burd said...

Mulcair is what he is, a shiny point man, the people who think they can win can't, and have proven that in three elections in a row - BC, ON and the Fed.

The genii behind Mulcair - step up Topp, Lavigne, McGrath et al, should be acknowledged as complete idiots out of touch with electoral reality and should be unemployed forever, instead of landing cushy jobs in Alberta.

The NDP is viable as a force on the left, despite what the Laxers in the party think however it should be tempered with pragmatism and measured against the wishy-washy thread of politics as practised by the Libs.

It will be interesting to see, in four years time, just how many of the promises made by the Libs have either been forgotten, written off as promises and watered down to maintain the facade of fulfillment.

When the NDP puts up its position against the flimflammery and obsfucation of the Libs they will look pretty good after all why should anybody vote fot a faux leftie when the real thing is in front of their very eyes.

I will agree that in this day and age of 'personality politics' Mulcair doesn't cut it. Bring on the leadership convention elect Paul Dewar, keep out of the House for a long time and sent him on a 'meet the Country tour' for as long as it takes to make the Country sick of the sight of him!!

Then we will win. Of course that assumes we are using PR to vote but bet on the Libs gaming the system and going with AV.

The Mound of Sound said...

Scotian, I tend to agree that the NDP, as it currently exists, serves little useful purpose in Parliament. Once it was seen as the "conscience of Parliament" but now it has reduced itself to an opportunistic scold. For years I lamented the hollowing of social democracy as the New Dems attempted to contort themselves into what I called "Latter Day Libs." They might have pulled it off had Layton lived but Mulcair was a poor choice to fulfil Jack's legacy.

Ben, I agree that the NDP's only real hope now is to oust Mulcair but I suspect the Tyee article is right and he'll remain party leader. As for Pro Rep, I still can't accept any system that can allow individuals who haven't been elected vote on issues that impact my life. Unelected means they're unaccountable to the electorate. They're simply party stooges chosen on any number of potential criteria. No thanks. I say that as a Green, the party that could benefit most from PR. I do hope you're right about Paul Dewar.

the salamander said...

.. well Ben Burd.. that genius Topp shares a PR firm with Firewall Ken Boessenkool.. who was farmed out by Harper to Christy Clark, caught in a scandal.. nothing in writing of course... spent time with his family.. and landed in Harper's cesspool as. 'senior advisor' just in time for an election.. Does that ring any bells? PR firms covering all political bases, sucking blowing & farting all at the same time? Its hard to believe Harper & Ray Novak didn't bring Tom Flanagan back as a senior exalted fellow to lend a hand .. and Stockwell Day.. plus a few spare wooly mammoths to prop up scarecrow pipeline pimp Joe Oliver - 'to tidewater.. to tidewater!' .. which is how they see the entire province of British Columbia.. tidewater to China.. Now they have Rawna Bwana Ambrose choosing soothing tone lipsticks for the great pig monstrosity hiding in the tailing ponds.. and the shale rock... Good Grief... a grade 2 or 3 could school these evangel ignoramuses ...

The Mound of Sound said...

Nicely put, Sal. No wonder my computer is still smoking after that one. Long live "the great pig monstrosity hiding in the tailing ponds."

And, to Scotian, Ben and certainly to you, Sal, a Happy New Year!

Scotian said...

And a Happy New Year to you too, make sure you tip that glass of Champagne from that bottle you told MS about in our direction as you celebrate, being fellow anti-Harper warriors and all...:) I'll certainly be doing so with my glass of Whiskey when that hour comes nigh.

As to your reply, I'm not sure even with Layton they could have pulled it off. What always struck me as interesting in the 2011 election is that despite the already clear distaste for Harper, the obvious absolute disgust with Ignatief, Layton and the NDP outside of Quebec never did better than their historic best under Broadbent. That so called Orange wave crashed hard even when Layton was at his absolute peak in his federal career. I have to wonder after being forced to watch the government Layton helped engineer whether there would have been nearly as much distrust in the end for him and the NDP as there was with Mulcair from Canadians.

That being said though, I do think Layton would have held onto some of their gains better, and he clearly would have been a far more effective campaigner. I also do not think he would have made the critical mistake of being openly contemptuous of Trudeau from the outset onward, nor do I think he would have disrupted his own base so much at the beginning of a campaign like Mulcair did with the pro-Israel or out you go purges of NDP candidates.

So I think Layton would have in the end been the better campaigner, but he also was the one most responsible for the shift of the NDP to that more centrist position, AND he was the one that decided Harper was the lesser evil than the Libs. That by the time Harper had so clearly worn his welcome out could have been a massive drag on his fortunes, but that is all of course hypothetical at this point. I do think his result for the NDP would have been better than Mulair, but by how much, that is a much more difficult question. Enough to prevent a majority Lib government, I could see that, but I do not believe by more than a strong minority Lib government result, the problem Layton had was his history of alliance with Harper in the early years in their common goal of death to the Liberal Party of Canada.

What is not so hypothetical is that Mulcair is clearly the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. No matter how good he might be in QP, he clearly sucked great big donkey balls as a campaigning party leader for the job of government. It isn't just about the positions his campaign took, it is about how he himself acted, reacted, and more importantly, failed to react/adapt when things started changing. He showed he lacked the "royal jelly" needed in a leader and potential PM, pure and simple, AND he twisted his public persona up so much he came off as seriously creepy with that permagrin to grandfatherly smile approach we were subjected to. With Trudeau you knew the smiles were heartfelt and real, with Mulcair you knew they were the product of advisors telling him so, and as bad as the grandfatherly smiles were, it was the permagrin that he had throughout most of the year even prior to the election that really creeped me and my wife out.