Challenges For Mulcair

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

Yesterday, I mused about Mulcair presenting a challenge to the Liberals. This assertion doesn’t equate to some belief that a Mulcair led NDP will sweep the nation and form government, only a relatively strong obstacle for the Liberals themselves, as we try to reassert ourselves on the political landscape, particularly “traditional” ground. In fact, there is much to wonder about when it comes to Mulcair as we move forward and the NDP attempt to solidify themselves as government in waiting.

I’ll refrain from commentary on facial hair, because frankly if that’s your big contributing insight one day out of a leadership finale, you should probably seek other employment, this clearly isn’t your calling. For my money, one of the more intriguing commentaries on Mulcair comes fromJudy Rebick, harsh but full of refreshing candour, this particular passage something to watch:

The third narrative is what has been called a whisper campaign against Mulcair. It was a pretty loud whisper turned into a shout by Ed Broadbent. No one can get along with this guy. He is a bully who doesn’t brook opposition. Kind of like a certain Prime Minister we know. It was also suggested that Mulcair had nothing to do with the victory in Quebec. Quieter but just as widespread was the knowledge that not very many women who have worked with him for more than a few months were supporting him. I was shocked by how few women were among his published endorsers. Some of these whispers are true from what I can tell.

Personality, this could well be Mulcair’s chief Achilles heel. Also relevant, our current PM has personality issues of his own, but has shown an ability to bring his own people together in common purpose (power tends to help in this regard as well, which should be mentioned). “No one can get along with guy”, that is where it can all unravel, especially when he takes the helm after an era of the Layton style, wherein inclusion was a centerpiece ideal. Mulcair must bring people together, that is a leader’s primary job, should he fail to give voice to others, domineer and dismiss, we will see his leadership undermined, there will be problems moving forward. While Broadbent’s comments were ill timed, the underlying message conveyed a problematic aspect to a Mulcair rule, the idea that people who have worked closely less inclined to support, a red flag moving forward for sure.

Lost in this Mulcair victory I think, the fact that the early rally behind Topp, particularly the Layton loyalists, looked very much like a pre-emptive strike to undercut Mulcair. There was a very QUICK move to put up an alternative to Mulcair, this inner circle obviously feared something and they pivoted quickly from mourning to maneuvering, the speed quite telling. Smiles and standing ovations now are irrelevant, the real test will come in the months ahead as we watch to see if all oars are enthusiastically pulling together, or if under the surface tensions distract from the task at hand.

Mulcair is not a populist, one wonders if he can resonate with his type of personality. You listen to Mulcair in interviews, I find him engaging, thoughtful, interesting and compelling, he has gifts no question. However, I can recall many a failed politician- some recent Liberal examples come to min- who sounded great one on one, but failed to touch the electorate in any compelling way. I found Mulcair’s victory speech incredibly flat and frankly it bored me to tears, I packed up halfway through as it was felt like sitting through the credits after a long movie. How Mulcair performs on the stump, walking the streets, interacting and engaging, this is a large unknown moving forward.

Those of us who follow politics closely know full well Mulcair has a nasty temper, as well as a habit of saying certain outlandish things. Fine when you’re an attack dog, a subordinate, quite another when you’re perceived as a possible PM in waiting. Again, one can point to our current PM and allay any fears on the “angry guy” front, but I contend to this day, Harper is largely the benefactor of good timing, rather than a wave of affection that brought him to office. In other words, I don’t consider his rise a template to copy, anger is not normally a preferred trait when it comes to “lik3ability”. Layton thrived because he was likeable, we did want to have a beer with him, he had that common touch, authenticity, sincerity and above all a sense of compassion. Mulcair has big shoes to fill, particularly within a party which isn’t as angry by nature as some others, if you “get” me. I think Mulcair did a masterful job during this campaign of holding his perceived anger in check, he looked a statesman, his message was positive, so perhaps we overstate these concerns. Still, history is just that, so I’ll be looking for flaring nostrils, red faced rants and how that could potentially play.

Like every new leader, Mulcair will be a work in progress. Leader of the Opposition is never an easy gig, at many times thankless and you always appear wanting and incomplete, perceptual hurdles a given. Let’s see if Mulcair can handle the heat, both in front of the cameras and perhaps more importantly, behind the scenes within his own party.

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