Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Axworthy on Uniting the Left

Lloyd Axworthy makes a serious argument for uniting the left. I've never objected to the kind of issue by issue cooperation Axworthy calls for here, but don't expect the current Liberal Party to take his advice.
First, the opposition parties must begin immediately to have direct conversations about the forthcoming parliamentary session. They must discuss how to combine and co-operate to ensure that Stephen Harper does not take advantage of both a split opposition and an imminent Liberal leadership race to force through measures that reflect his particular ideology, which is clearly very conservative. This de facto parliamentary alliance, while troublesome for partisans, is a must and is clearly mandated by their electors who were asked to vote Liberal, New Democrat, Green or Bloc to stop Mr. Harper. To return to the gamesmanship of the last Parliament would be a repudiation of those election vows.
He even squarely puts the onus where it belongs:

One major question mark in all this will be the Liberal leadership contest, already under way in sub rosa fashion. Will a leader emerge who is willing to take a chance and be ready to embrace, indeed take a lead in forming, a different kind of political constellation? Or will there be a push by that faction of the party that believes a return to right-of-centre politics will offset the present Conservative advantage.

To this death wish, I am reminded of the comment of Keith Davey, renowned Liberal party organizer, who said that Canadians given a choice will always vote for a real Tory, not a pseudo-Tory in Liberal clothing.

He's right about turning right being a dead end for the Liberals too, and some in the party seem to be taking the wrong message from the fall of Dion and contemplating exactly that (Cough... Iggy.). From a purely partisan standpoint if the Liberal Party wants to cede the Left to the NDP we'll happily give a home to the progressives the Liberals turn their back on.

We're not going to team up to abstain on Stephen Harper's whole agenda either.


ken said...

To unite the so-called left would be turn the Canadian system into precisely the US two party system with both parties supporting the status quo with one party branded liberal and the other conservative but the differences being marginal.
Uniting the left is exactly what the powers that be would like. It is cheaper and more reliable than having parties that provide some real challenge to the prevailing consensus of what is right for the ruling class.
The Liberal party is not of the left. To think that there is some big difference between them and the Conservatives is an illusion.
Who got us into Afghanistan the Liberals. Who screwed up on the environment so we could not meet the Kyoto accords targets, the Liberals. Who was in power when Canadians were tortured in Syria and Egypt, the Liberals. Who kept the Conservatives in power, the Liberals...
Uniting the left is just a ploy to kill other left parties.

Cliff said...

Agreed. You notice that Axworthy's piece is all about how the Liberal Party needs to actually move left before we can even talk about uniting the 'left'. I fully anticipate that instead, the Liberals are about to convince themselves that, all evidence to the contrary, Canadians are really looking for a center right alternative to Harper.

The Liberals could quite easily turn left and cut the grass of the NDP and the other opposition parties - its a big lawn covering about 70% of the electorate - but seem more focused on maybe slicing off a few feet of the Conservatives paltry field of support. I suggest that in the absence of any discernable electoral logic in such a position it simply shows that the Liberal Party is and always has been more comfortable on the right of center.

Now on an issue by issue basis I can see room for cooperation between the opposition parties, but expect the Liberals to continue to put partisan calculations ahead of any real resistance to 'scary Stephen Harper.'

I would argue that they've been using that cover to stand by while Harper institutes the kind of neo-liberal social contract shredding agenda the Liberals would promote if they thought they could get away with it, rather than campaigning to the left and then tossing aside every promise not made to Bay Street.

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