27 November 2008

More on King-Byng v2.0

Aldous, this is certainly is a cunning move - "crafty" and "diabolical" are synonyms being tossed about by the commentariat - but there's an old adage that might also apply to Stephen Harper: he's so sharp he's liable to cut himself.

I can't think that internal polling is anything but rosy for the Tories, given their incumbency and the weakness of the Liberals. Still, this imbroglio brings to mind a line from Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida: Ulysses, after bemoaning the disorder among the Greek champions, declaims that "to end a tale of length / Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength."

If October's election is rerun with all its variables unchanged, the Conservatives will win a majority. However, a number of things have changed in the last six weeks (really, has it been that long?): the severity of the economic crisis, the government's own stance on deficit spending, the field of Liberal leadership candidates (considerably smaller than it was on October 15th) and most importantly, the sense of anxiety in the Canadian public, and the sense of urgency, if press reports are to be believed, within the opposition parties themselves. The Conservatives may be overconfident: only a third of the country voted for the turkeys the last time around.

Crisis has a funny way of concentrating the mind. If the Liberals immediately replace Dion (Pat Martin's report of Jean Chretien attempting to broker a deal between the leadership candidates is intriguing) and the New Democrats rediscover their progressive cojones, a coalition might have a fighting chance. If Paul Wells is right and the NDP, like the Liberals, are broke, then there might be a lot of motivation for cooperation. If there's an election? Look for a formal coalition betweent the NDP and Liberals, and plenty of rhetoric about national unity in the face of catastrophe. Oh, and an awful lot of kind words for Jean Charest.

Or, Harper could back down. His game plan was supposed to be not just incrementalist, but soporific - he has tried to convince Canadians of his and his party's moderation, despite various nasty smells (Chuck Cadman, Zaccardelli, lazy artists, etc etc) dispelled as much as possible by a compliant media. But this maneuvre stinks so badly that it's hard to ignore. Much rests on each party's assessment of risk versus opportunity in this situation. The key question, of course, is how public opinion is shaped in terms of apportioning blame. I have to say that, based on the last two elections, I'm not optimistic on that score. But on the other hand, a roulette wheel on a cruise ship in these stormy waters isn't always going to land in the black.

Finally, Aldous, I commend you for getting through a post on this subject without swearing. Happy Thanksgiving - let's hope there's no war between India and Pakistan!

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