The Topp campaign are orchestrating a shock and awe type strategy, flexing their muscles in an effort to scare off credible alternatives. After Layton’s death, talk of upwards of a dozen potential candidates, now the NDP looks lucky to find a serious alternative to the supposed anointed one. There are plenty of problems with this rapidly developing story, not the least of which the entire Topp movement is predicated on suspect rationale.
A month ago nobody would have considered Brian Topp a leading candidate to replace Layton, and yet here we sit with Topp skyrocketing to frontrunner, truly amazing when you sit back and digest the rapidity of it all. However, the impetus for Topp is really where the danger lies, because rather than an organic rise to prominence, he is really a creation of powerful inner circles who are reacting to Mulcair, he’s an answer to the perceived heir. The quick co-ordination isn’t about inspiration but more about blocking the more natural choice. This “establishment” move comes with terrific risk, because the rush to Topp looks reactive, as though someone was picked that has the necessary pedigree to undercut someone else who is perceived as unattractive. The pitfalls are obvious, and when the dust settles, I see every possibility of buyer’s remorse. The backroom boy, with the powerful friends, mount a blitzkreig to dissuade others and take the bearded one out at the knees. Doesn’t sound particularly democratic, doesn’t sound particularly inspiring, in fact it sounds like another certain party.
There is a clue here for my NDP friends, as this Topp tornado rips across the land. Oddly, it comes from John Ivison (who’s a terrific writer when he isn’t carrying Conservative water) in his piece “Can anyone stop Brian Topp?”:
One thing NDP members should perhaps think about is who the Conservatives would least like to face in four years time. One senior Conservative said that he is not concerned by Mr. Topp, calling him “wooden” and lacking in charisma. Nor is he worried by the prospect of Mr. Mulcair winning, calling him “very wedge-able.” But Mr. Dewar does make him nervous. “He’s young, bilingual, telegenic and has political genealogy [his mother was mayor of Ottawa]. He has good parliamentary experience and people seem to like him. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a young Bob Rae.”
I agree, as I’ve already said, I don’t understand Topp as a political natural that will resonate. I also agree that Paul Dewar is the one that has the best capacity to capitalize on recent NDP gains. Dewar has an authenticity which is rare, he’s capable, measured, likeable, intelligent, young, attractive, well versed and has a common touch. Grassroots dippers would be wise to blunt the Topp train, at least enough to allow for a truly open debate, where the outcome is in considerable doubt. As it stands now, the NDP leadership race looks like dictation from the Topp, a quick “sew it up” process that people might one day look back on and shake their heads.