No one doubts the popularity of Jack Layton, nor the fact the NDP has made his personal image synonymous with the brand. Should Layton not return, there are obvious uncertainties, the NDP will have to retool their message and rework their presentation. However, to elevate this issue to the point of outright crisis, I think it does the NDP a bit of a disservice to be honest.
To my mind, the NDP are an established brand in English Canada, so "fallout" has potentially less consequence. The real question revolves around Quebec, that is where Layton’s popularity had an enormous effect. However, if you must think about potential contenders, the most obvious name is hardly a question of "survival" in Quebec, very popular, very entrenched, very capable of holding these gains. The NDP have obliterated the Bloc, the province isn’t going back, so assuming without Layton the party falls to nowhere, fails to incorporate the emerging new realities. The NDP party hierarchy have already shown their intentions in the election aftermath, it’s all about shoring up support, turning the watery wave into firm concrete, this continues with or without Layton, people don’t give up when faced with new challenges. As WELL, let’s not forget the underlying appeal, the NDP policies are very, very compatible with Quebecers, their chief hurdle was always appearing a true contender, being taken seriously. With the overwhelming result of the last election, the NDP are now a practicality in Quebec, they’ve overcome the credibility hurdle, so thoughts of them simply disappearing in short order, I don’t understand at all.
Let’s assume Layton doesn’t return (hope I’m wrong). People wondering if the party can survive make certain assumptions. One, there is simply no one who is capable of providing solid leadership after Jack Layton. Two, the party really has no resonance beyond leadership, their policies are irrelevant, all the messaging an afterthought, take away Layton and everything evaporates. Three, the NDP have a team with no capabilities, they played no role in cultivating Layton’s image, arming him with cutting edge ads and narratives. Four, all these new NDP MP’s can’t shine, they can’t show Quebecers their trust was earned, they can’t grow in the next four years. Believe me, I understand the role of leadership in success(and I think we Liberals really do need a saviour, despite thoughts to the contrary), but to hear much of the talk today, you have to possess a pretty narrow, static gaze to comprehend the dire potentials. Again, the superficial assessments are actually a bit insulting, perhaps an underlying valid point, but failing to incorporate the pragmatic capacity. The NDP will face challenges, but in many regards they will control their own fate. Should the NDP react with strategic wisdom and solid reasoning, the party will be fine and prosper, should they make boneheaded choices, like all parties they will fail. One thing is clear in Canadian politics, the initial tendency to overstate every development remains a center problem 🙂