Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Those who do not learn from history...

Brian Topp offers an all-too-plausible theory as to why the Harper Cons may see little downside in calling an election this fall. But it's worth at least raising the question of how safely Harper can assume that the Libs will continue to prop him up given another chance to replace him with a coalition government:
This spring’s curious debate over the idea of building a single big progressive party highlighted the deep vein of loathing and fear that many in Michael Ignatieff’s Rosedale/Bay Street-centred blue Liberal faction hold for progressive policies and people. As they have made clear both publicly and privately in many venues, they feel closer to the Conservatives than to the New Democrats on many issues.

This being so, even after an election debacle on the scale suggested by these numbers, perhaps Mr. Harper could hope to work out another informal modus vivendi with the blue Liberals, whose party would be returning to the repair shop for another long visit. In which case, on these seat projections, Mr. Harper would govern with a de facto 212-seat majority, much as he is doing now.

Could Mr. Harper really count on this?

Mr. Ignatieff says he is open to building a progressive coalition government after the next election if the numbers justify it. He must say this to preserve his party’s currently faux-progressive positioning, designed to (faintly) appeal to New Democrats and Greens. But would those numbers justify such a government in his mind? Or does his conduct since January 2009 – in a fundamentally identical Parliament – tell us what he and his party wing would really do?

A pessimistic answer to this question would make a fall election more likely.
Now, there's no room for doubt that at least some Libs would rather keep Stephen Harper in charge of the country than allow a single New Democrat voice into cabinet. But it's worth raising the question of whether Michael Ignatieff has learned better than to let those blue Libs have the final say based on his own personal experience.

After all, Ignatieff has effectively had only one chance to replace Harper before, as there hasn't actually been any prospect of an alternative government since his initial coalition decision in January 2009. At that point, Ignatieff was apparently convinced by those within his party who said he should hold out for absolute power on his own - ignoring repeated warnings that continued Con government would be disastrous for both the country and the Libs.

For that decision, Ignatieff was rewarded with roughly a week of lionization by the mainstream press as a Serious Leader(tm) - which of course served absolutely no useful purpose since there was no way to translate it into electoral gains. And needless to say, that initial praise was followed by a steady stream of Con attack ads, media declarations that he's an ineffective leader, and declining poll numbers.

So Ignatieff's history should tell him that he'd be best off charting a different course the next time there's a chance to form an alternative government. And while I wouldn't want to bet on his having learned that lesson, nor would I be quite so pessimistic as to rule out the possibility that he has.

No comments:

Post a Comment