In England the two parties viewed as having any realistic chance at government are the Tories and Labour, to be precise, New Labour. The Tories in England are still in a position analogous to the Progressive Conservatives after Kim Campbell. They're in the penalty box and only severe incompetence by, or public disenchantment with the Labour Party will keep them from staying there for a generation.
Under Tony Blair the British Labour Party became Thatcherite-lites. It's arguable how necessary such a transition was, given the severe disenchantment the public had reached with the Tories. Neo-liberal economics and slavish obedience to the White House seems designed to appeal more to the Elites than the public.
The price of such political expedience is an electorate that views Blair and the Labour party as unprincipled and scandal driven. Without guiding principals and yes, an ideological under-pinning, New Labour is directionless and rootless. As Mick Hume put it today:
But the politicians are not innocent victims of a 'meejah conspiracy'. New Labour has asked for this. What we are witnessing is not so much the power of the press as the weakness of the political class. It is New Labour's fundamental lack of firm political foundations that has left it so vulnerable. And its panicky, near-paranoid responses to media pressure always ensure that things get worse. At root, the government's wounds are self-inflicted. The media are merely the messengers, delivering the news about how shaky New Labour has become.And this is the political path Jack Layton seems to want to take the NDP down.
In a quixotic quest to become the established left of center alternative in the Canadian political environment the NDP risks becoming completely irrelevant. There already is a vaguely left of center party that supports social spending to ameliorate the worst excesses of capitalism while offering no substantive critique or alternative to Capitalism. They're called the Liberals.
If retaining our principles, let's be clear, socialist principles, means that the NDP is always a perennial third choice to the Canadian electorate is that necessarily a terrible thing? Does it in fact even follow that would be the case? There's a whole generation of progressive young people fighting elite guided globalization and elite benefiting global trade policies that frankly view the NDP as irrelevant. At the same time that global mass movements were mobilizing against a global order designed to benefit the elites at the expense of the rest of us, the NDP was abandoning a substantive critique of Capitalism and seeking to take over the Liberal role of supporting a 'market economy but not a market society.'
If we abandon substantive ideals based policy in exchange for a vague situational liberalism, why should someone vote for us instead of the Liberals? If the Liberals and the Torys go even further right, does the NDP lurch even further to the center in response? Given the apparent global shift away from the Washington consensus and elite guided globalization is the NDP about to find itself on the wrong side of history?