Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Layton factor (or why Robert Silver can't take success for an answer)

There are people who are just going to see the world the way they want regardless of the facts.

Enter Robert Silver and the blog he appears to share with Tim Powers (imagine what that apartment must look like).

In it today, Silver transitions from the obvious to the absurd all the while missing the fact that the party of Tommy Douglas is larger, more confident, and more prepared to govern than it has been in a generation; with almost all of the credit going to Jack Layton.

First the obvious: Silver writes “Whether the coalition is dead or alive is fully and entirely outside the NDP's control. If Michael Ignatieff wants it to happen, it happens. If he doesn't, it's dead.”

That's right. Of course it's right. Without Ignatieff and his 76 Liberals, there is no coalition. But Silver has missed the point. The New Democrats don't need to be in control of what Ignatieff does next. All that matters is that Mr Ignatieff has a choice: he can either demonstrate a desire to work with the NDP on an agenda to stimulate the economy that all Liberals have endorsed, or he can, as Mr Dion did with the Afghanistan vote, hold his nose and give an un-trustworthy Stephen Harper yet another blank cheque while bidding adios to progress on child care, EI reform and working with Obama on climate change. The decision is Mr Ignatieff's. But it's a mistake to believe the decision is politically valueless and that the New Democrats don't know that as well.

Secondly, there is the absurd. In the face of the facts, Silver argues that the New Democrats “failed in the last campaign” and are the same party they were in 1970s.

The same as encountering a misguided soul at the bus station who emphatically insists that Elvis and Marilyn Monroe staged the moon landing on a soundstage outside of Des Moines, this kind of rubbish can only be countered with the facts:

The 2008 election produced the second largest New Democrat Caucus in history -- including the largest Ontario caucus ever (not bad for a leader who will celebrate only six years on the job this month).

In the same election, Layton managed to engineer breakthroughs in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Conservative bastion of Alberta while virtually sweeping Northern Ontario.

The party has increased its seats in every election since Layton became leader and in the Commons has rewritten the 2005 budget to make key investments that are building affordable housing and putting buses on the roads right now.

And as the willingness of Liberals to agree to the coalition policy agreement shows, Layton's NDP understands the modern economy better than any “tax cuts will save us all” Liberal or Tory government ever has.

Layton's (latest) accomplishment has been the unprecedented coalition agreement reached with Mr Dion with the tacit support of Bloc MPs – a feat considered impossible by Ottawa insiders. No New Democrat leader has come this close to producing a stronger economy or fundamentally changing the culture of Ottawa before. As a result, Layton is in the strongest position among his party and Canadians who want change.

But don't try to tell the professional detractors of the Jack Layton NDP any of this.

5 comments:

janfromthebruce said...

great post DH. You reminded me what Layton and the federal NDP has accomplished and why I am proud to be a New Democrat.
It needed saying, as in the MSM, the opinion writers of the mostly right-wing press are scared so silly of the coalition (cause that's democracy baby and the economic stim package directed at the many rather than the few for a change) actually forming that they keep on saying Layton is the big loser. Wrong and this points to why. Again thanks. J.

Cliff said...

Have you seen Lorne Gunter's silliness?

This latest wave of concern trolling tells us a lot about the nervousness of those insisting in defiance of all the facts and basic common sense that the NDP are in serious trouble rather then stronger than we've been in years. It tells us that they're getting scared.

Aaron said...

A very appropriate and timely post. Despite the absurd unwillingness of mainstream media to acknowledge the NDP as a relevant Party we are gaining momentum. And Jack Layton has been the primary reason for it. Keep up the good work and hopefully we can continue to dispel myths and move our Party forward.

Tiny Perfect Blog said...

Layton's opponents have been writing him off since he became leader.

Every election, I think - maybe this will shut them up. And every time, I'm proven wrong.

Layton is one of the best leaders the NDP has ever had, period.

Malcolm+ said...

The whole issue of Layton's "disappointing" result from the last election needs o be seen in context - particularly when making comparisons with Ed Broadbent.

If we look at the average vote for all three parties during the period of Jack Layton's leadership and we compare it to the comparable data for all three parties during the period of Ed Broadbent's leadership, we find the following.

During the four elections from 1979 - 1988, the NDP averaged 19.21% of the popular vote. By cmparison, in the three elections from 2004 - 2008, the average was 17.11%. This represents a decline of 2.1 percentage points or 10.9%.

During the same period, the Liberal average went from 36.10% to 31.07% - a decline of 5.03 percentage points or 13.93%. The Conservative average fell from 40.35% to 34.52% - a decline of 5.83 points or 14.15%.

In other words, Layton has posted the smallest decline of the three national party leaders.

The results are even more striking when we compare Layton's results with the series of elections immediately preceding his election as leader.

In the three elections from 1993 - 2000, the combined vote of the pre-merger conservative parties averaged 36.87%. Thus, Stephen Harper has led his party to a 2.35 point or 6.04% decline.

The Liberals fared even worse. Having averaged 40.18% between 1993 and 2000, they have declined by 9.11 points or 22.67%.

By comparison, Layton improved on the 1993 - 2000 average of 8.81% by a margin of 8.3 points. In other words, he is the oly national party leader in the last three elections to have improved his party's popular vote, nearly doubling it with a 94.21% increase.

Even just looking at a straight 1988 - 2008 comparison, we see the Conservative vote having declined (43.04% to 37.65%) by 5.37 points or 12.48%, while the Liberal vote declined (31.92% to 26.26%) by 5.66 points or 17.73%. By comparison, the NDP vote declined (20.38% to 18.18%) by a mere 2.2 points or 10.79%.

Of course, one of the major change in dynamics between 1988 and 2008 was the emergence of first the Bloc Quebecois and more recently the Green Party. In aggregate, these two parties, which did not exist in 1988, took 16.76% of the vote.

If we factor out the BQ and GP vote, the Layton NDP took 21.84% of the remaining vote - compared to 45.23% for the Conservatives and 31.55% for the Liberals. Using that baseline, the Conservatives and New Democrats have improved their standing, while the Liberals have declined.

This leaves aside two things which Jack Layton accomplished that Ed Broadbent never did - winning seats in both Newfoundland and Quebec in a general election.

If Robert Silver wants to start running comparisons, then let's ru them all. If one looks at all the data, the only party that is consistently screwed is his own Liberals.