Och aye the noo to the old NDP
This post was written by MJ on 26th Jan, 2003
Being an NDPer is alot like being Scottish: the dour obedience to tradition and inscrutable elites, the belief in sometimes irrelevant ideals, the preference of presumed righteousness to pragmatism, the humourous acceptance of being a continual loser.
I haven’t been a card-carrying member of the orange and green for over a decade, but what happened yesterday just might change that. And it might change because the victory of Jack Layton in the federal leadership race is not only a win for one man, but a disavowal of some of the NDP’s worst traits.
Perhaps we should have known Layton was on his way when Bill Blaikie — his nearest challenger; pundits incorrectly identified them as “neck and neck” going into this weekend’s vote — launched a final, desperate attack, saying the leadership wasn’t an “entry-level position,” saying Layton’s lack of a seat in parliament is a fatal strike on Layton’s application.
This from a fellow who cannot speak French.
By then, Layton had beaten Blaikie in every other category. He was seen as a new face but not representing a new direction. His bona fides as a city councillor and head of Canada’s federation of municipalities had revealed no embarrassments. He raised a ton of cash. The unions — those damn unions — hadn’t given him a thumbs-down.
The NDP is, in outlook and tendency if not in ideals, a conservative party. For the past 10 years that conservatism has dominated the selection of leaders — arguably, in this era of retail television politics where the allegiance of groups and blocs has largely melted away, of equal or more importance than the selection of policy. It has resulted in leaders acceptable because they didn’t threaten the governing structure, membership, or outlook of the party. Their tenures, irregardless of the honesty or integrity of each, have been forgettable. No longer.
Now, despite the reflexive dismissal of most of Canada’s punditry — the same people, remember, who almost as one told us the selection of Stockwell Day would ignite some new, right-wing Trudeamania two years ago — the NDP now have official party status; poll numbers equal or better than any other opposition party; support in more than one region of the country, unlike the other opposition parties; and a attractive, charismatic, principled, honest leader.
Maybe it’s appropriate Layton was elected on Robbie Burns’ night. And maybe, thank God, finally it’s not.