Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jack Layton and the future of the NDP

Shortly after leading his party to the greatest heights they have ever seen, Jack Layton is in a fight for his life. On Monday he revealed that he is battling a new form of Cancer, this revelation, coming in the wake of much concern about Layton's health in light of his recent hip surgery and his battle against prostate cancer. He has announced that he will step down until mid September, presuming his treatment is successful.

While we all hope for Mr. Layton's speedy recovery, we must consider the implications of this information. It is quite possible that Mr Layton will not be able to return to the leadership of his party, or if he does, that he will only be able to return in a limited capacity.

While the NDP broke all of their own records this spring, forming the official opposition with over 100 seats in the house of commons, much of that success was built, not by strong local riding associations, nor dedicated candidates, but by Jack Layton's own charisma. Without Jack at the helm it is doubtful if the NDP will be able to hold their 2011 gains, much less inch any closer to Harper's majority.

Jack Layton has nominated Nycole Turmel as interim leader until he returns. While the caucus would probably be united behind Turmel, it is doubtful if she would have the charisma to hold NDP gains, much less expand them.
Thomas Mulcair, deputy leader of the NDP, provides no more of a suitable choice to lead the party in the next election. His comments in May 2011 on Osama Bin Laden's death clearly marked him as something of a nutjob conspiracy theorist.

And the NDP's other Deputy Leader? Libby Davies? Her anti Semitic comments in 2010 showed a clear inability to deal with foreign affairs, and will provide plentiful ammunition to the Tories in an election with her as leader.

If the NDP contains a suitable replacement for Jack Layton, its not someone who's seen much spotlight yet. As such, I'm forced to conclude that the NDP's political health is directly tied to Layton's personal health. If Layton's fortunes do not improve, neither will his party's.

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