Friday, January 05, 2007

The New Chess Master

In a post long ago, I called Jack Layton the master of the game of parliamentary chess.

Now, I agree with Greg (the artist formerly known as Sinister Thoughts):

On the NDP side, Jack is in a real bind. His move on the Liberal budget was seen as a great stroke of political strategy. The NDP spin was that they were able to wring spending out of a weak prime minister who was circling the drain. This is not going to be the perception this time. Say what you will about Harper, but he is not Paul Martin. This time, it is Harper who is maneuvering Layton around in hopes that Layton will be his willing pawn in his repackaging effort. Layton is going to have to score very, very, big to counter the perception among his own voters that he is being used to advance the cause of the Tories, rather than helping out the environment.

If I can expand on this a bit.

This parliament chess board now belongs to the Prime Minister, and the defection of Liberal MP, Wajid Khan, cements it. Jack Layton is in a tremendous bind, as Greg indicates.

The seat distribution is now:

  • The Conservative Party (125) + the NDP (29) = 154 seats.
  • The Liberal Party (101 100) + the Bloc Quebecois (51) = 152 151 seats.
  • Independents Andre Arthur and Garth Turner = 2 seats.

The last thing Jack is going to want to do is to have to vote against a Conservative budget or non-confidence motion in the near term. Why? For the last little while, we have heard nothing out of the Liberal Party except that the NDP caused the last election for short-term election gain - and all those "borrowed votes", to borrow a talking point, will likely go back to the Liberals.

I can see the campaign ads now from the Liberal Party ...

The NDP asked to borrow your vote to elect a Conservative minority. Now, they want your vote to help elect a Conservative majority. Tell Jack Layton, no.

This message will likely resonate huge with swing voters that shift between the Liberals and the NDP, for the "horror" that a Conservative minority has inflicted on their ideals.

So, not only will Jack have to do something to wring something huge out of the Prime Minister, he will have to retain credit for it (Doing Something for Canadians, Again). That retaining credit will be very hard to do since it appears with this latest cabinet shuffle, the Prime Minister is attempting to redo policy in their weakest areas.

If Jack can't get a huge concession from the Prime Minister, I think he'll need to support the Conservative Party on initiatives they may disagree with at least in the short term - very likely (possibly) angering the NDP base.

I don't see either independent, even Garth Turner - as much as he might like to stick it to the man - voting to defeat the government when the next opportunity arises.

Don't get me wrong - I don't know if the Conservative Party wants an election, or believe they can win one. They may, based upon the mantra of "promise made, promise kept" or that the population isn't ready to re-elect the Liberal Party. Who knows.

Interesting times ahead, I guess.

Updated: Actually, I think my math is wrong. I included the Speaker in the Liberal Party totals, who only votes in the case of a tie (and who traditionally votes in favour of the government). I've updated the post, with strikeouts. It means that the independents don't matter ... in a vote of confidence.

Garth, you can feel free to stick it to the man!

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