Now from the gang who took over the Liberal party and brought us Paul Martin, the near-celestial eminence touted by the media and political elites as the party’s saviour in the Chretien era, we have the anointment of Michael Ignatieff as party leader. Recall that the likes of David Herle and others who toppled Chretien for Martin worked their magic first to replace a Liberal majority with a minority, then to turn a minority into opposition. Why do they have any credibility at all?

Ignatieff and Martin are alike in being much loved by their political peers and the media, and totally unable to connect to the average voter through mass media. If anything, Ignatieff on TV is even more distant, cold, and disconnected than Martin, and he is prone to the same wind-testing approach to any political decision. His primary motive for getting into politics appears to be power, nothing more, nothing less. He has always been a fawning toady to the powerful, using his intellect to devise sophistically liberal, rights-based justifications for their violations of others’ human rights.

Is the Liberal party really so stupid as to repeat the Martin mistake? Just because the media, Liberal MPs, and the party brass like someone doesn’t mean they will make an effective leader or campaigner. Of course, I could be wrong, but it seems to me Ignatieff’s patrician aloofness and lofty demeanour will be a real turn-off to a lot of people. He flew back from 20 years abroad to become prime minister. See if the Conservatives can’t do something with that.

The Liberals have also shown they don’t understand the power of solidarity. Instead of proactively campaigning to frame the discussion around the coalition, as the Conservatives did, the Liberals reacted to immediate opinion polls with panic, as though, in a highly fluid political situation, people couldn’t change their minds. Right away the knives came out, and the machine, which never liked the coalition idea, pushed through its desired outcome. It remains to be seen whether incentives can be created that will pressure Ignatieff into sticking with the coalition. One thing he should realize is that it will be a lot easier for him to campaign for the prime ministership as prime minister than as leader of the opposition against Stephen Harper. And right now the coalition seems to be his only way to get there.





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Corvin Russell

Corvin Russell is an activist, writer and translator living in Toronto.