Sunday, October 21, 2007

Liberals - A way out of the woods

In the last few weeks since the provincial election, more than a few local pundits of the print and video variety, have offered advice for the Liberal Party for the long march back to power.

Now let me offer my own. . .

To start, let me puncture the notion that the Libs are down and gone forever - that's just self-serving nonsense from government partisans who prefer the "responsible" (read "tame") opposition style of the NDP. This reached a low point under the leadership of Jack Harris who interpreted the concept of "principled opposition" as license to nestle in the warmth of the government's back pocket. I'm glad to see that this has changed somewhat under the leadership of Lorraine Michael.

The NDP, God bless their righteous hearts, are never going to be in the position of government-in-waiting because that's a position they have chosen to pass on. To be a real alternative, they would have to start by severing their relationship with Big Labour in a similar way that Tony Blair did with the Labour Party in Great Britain. And since they are not ready to do that, they forfeit any right to be the government-in-waiting. You can't have a government-in-waiting in Reg Anstey's pocket anymore than you can be a government-in-waiting in the pocket of the Board of Trade.

The day the NDP really shake up their organization is the day they become a force to reckon with - not before.

Until that day comes, our political system is predicated on one party being the passer of political power while the other party acts as the receiver. And unless we all wish to formalize the one-party state then we have to accept the inevitable process: after the political tide comes in, the political tide inevitable goes out. So the the next time that happens, it will be the Liberals receiving power from the PCs.

The Liberal Party, like the PCs and unlike the NDP, are big tent parties where hard ideological positions are eschewed in favour of pragmatics. That means that the parties can shrink and expand to cover the necessity of the times they live in. This is not to say that the PCs and Liberal are interchangeable. They are not. They have very different histories, political cultures, and socio and geodemographics.

And even under the official party banners, there are many shades of red just as there are many shades of blue. Many of the shades of blue currently holding the levers of power are dismissed by some of the other shades of blue. Similarly, some of the shades of red which cheered on the Liberal campaign strategy in the last election felt an enthusiasm unshared by other Liberals of a different shade of red.

There are Liberals who love Danny and PCs who hate him. There are schools of Federalist thought which crosses party barriers just as there are schools of nationalist thought with roots in both the Libs and the PCs.

Research shows that the province is not dominated by Liberals or PCs or the NDP. Maybe 25-30% of the voting population consider themselves Liberal with a roughly same number considering themselves PCs. Less than 1/2 those numbers consider themselves NDP. So in any given election, the Libs can count on about 25% of the vote, the PCs the same and the NDP about 10%.

Most people, about 40%, are undecided/independents who think little of politics, change their vote from election to election and don't consider themselves adherents to any of the parties. They swing around from party to party depending on the issues of the day and the qualities of the leaders and parties they are faced with.

This is only a rough approximate model of the provincial electorate. There are many more complexities than that but this will suffice for the moment.

I'll continue this in a day or two.

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