Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Building credentials

Murray Mandryk comments on the NDP's well-placed move toward a more populist campaign, pointing out that Jack Layton's campaign has gone out of its way to be accessible to the public both in message and in fact:
This time around, the NDP is clearly running its leader as a populist with hardline views on the environment and a hankering to take on the rich corporations. Once past the NDP cliche of speaking for Canadians at the kitchen table rather than the boardroom table, Layton hammered away at corporations gouging us at the gas pumps, through text messaging charges and additional banking fees...

(M)ake no mistake that the blue-collar socialist we saw at the Regina pub Tuesday differs from the white-collar intellectual presented by Liberal leader Stephane Dion or the white-collar business-man of Conservative leader Stephen Harper.

For instance, after Layton mingled with supporters Tuesday, he lingered to take questions from reporters, participated in interviews with editorial board members and talkshow hosts and even found the time to meet with less-than-hostile striking Grain Services Union members. Contrast that with Stephen Harper, who on Monday feigned a newly found common touch for the evening news cameras that carried the event at a local farm quonset live. Unfortunately, what Harper couldn't be bothered to do was actually answer any questions while campaigning on Saskatchewan soil.
Now, Mandryk's column shouldn't be taken as an indication that Layton can't go further in pushing a populist line. To date any anti-Ottawa messaging from the NDP has been fairly reserved, as usual hot buttons like corruption and patronage haven't been dealt with substantively and even the NDP's first platform plank has been introduced mostly in a positive, "you and your family first" context.

That said, there should be plenty more room for the NDP to move onto populist ground as the campaign progresses and the conversation around the kitchen table focuses a bit more on what's currently being done wrong. And the fact that pundits like Mandryk are already picking up on the message even in its early stages can only bode well for its ability to resonate later on.

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