BTC: Kitchen party


Last week’s magazine piece was about Jack Layton and the NDP’s altogether valiant attempt at being taken seriously. Here’s the gist.

“In the first week of Jack Layton’s third federal campaign, the charter jet emblazoned with his name travelled 13,484 km, touching down in 11 cities — a pace and path befitting the pitch. Jack Layton wants to be prime minister. The party, emboldened by Layton’s personal popularity, has put him before all else. And in addition to saying so, loudly and insistently, Layton and the NDP seem determined to look the part.”

This, as later discussed, is as much about convincing the press gallery as it is about persuading the electorate. Problem is, at least in the early going, they weren’t having much luck—the party, by one count, generating about half as much media coverage as the Conservatives and Liberals respectively. Anecdotally, that doesn’t appear to have changed much since (though the pot-smokers and nudists in the party’s midst certainly helped).

Two points on this.

1. As frustrated as the New Democrats get about this, it also frustrates the daily reporters on the NDP plane, who find they don’t have much to do with their desks back in Toronto and Ottawa less-than-excited about whatever Layton’s doing that day. And that sets up a weird scenario in which both the campaign and the reporters following the campaign have the same basic goal each morning: getting coverage for the NDP. (Which is not to question the integrity of the reporters covering the campaign. On the contrary. At least in that first week, the group included some of the most level-headed members of the gallery. This reporter not included.)

2. The NDP is trying to find ways around this. An issue of La Semaine, the Quebec tabloid, was passed around the plane that first week on account of the fluffy feature inside on the love affair of Layton and Olivia Chow. Layton was the first party leader to accept an invitation to host a one-hour talk show simulcast on radio stations in Montreal, Toronto, London, St. Catharines and Kelowna. And he’s done an online chat with Globe readers. For that matter, the NDP might have the best website. And, for whatever it’s worth, Layton has the most Facebook friends.

But so far the NDP’s poll numbers haven’t swung more than a couple points above their traditional range. And while that might simply have to do with Jack Layton and the NDP’s inherent appeal, it might be worth wondering what that says about the influence of the so-called mainstream media—whether, for all the talk about this glorious system of tubes and the blogs and the new diversity of voices and how everyone with an Internet connection is a publisher now, the traditional sources still dictate the proceedings.


BTC: Kitchen party

  1. I can only speak from the perspective of someone who lives out west here (victoria). It is patently obvious the Liberals are saving the furniture out here and it’s a very tough sell for any of their fundraisers or doorknockers if you can find any. Not to mention the fact that I see tons of Conservative and NDP signs all over but nary a LPC one except for out near the univesity (kinda weird). The Liberal Party has fallen over out here in the west and I have never seen or heard of so much support for the NDP and how well they are doing this time around. The local polls are strong for both the NDP and Conservative with a tad more Green than usual and well just ugly for the Liberals. There has been a lot of local coverage on Harper and Layton battlinmg it out but see page # 3 for any information about the Liberals . This is turning out to be a very unusual election out here on the left coast and who know about the ramifications!

  2. I’ve actually been surprised at how much coverage the NDP is getting, they are often getting second billing in the GLobe and the CBC, after the Tories. Usually second billing is reserved for the official opposition. It’s unfortunate that the polling numbers aren’t breaking the 20% ceiling much, but it will still take a while for the NDP to be seen as a viable opposition.

  3. The NDP used to present a vision that was, more or less, a clear alternative to the Libs and Cons. This was the party that kept the issues of the environment, economic sovereignty, women’s rights, worker’s rights, universal healthcare and education at least marginally in the public and political conscience of our nation.

    Fast forward to Jack Layton and today’s NDP. The fundamanetal vision has been lost. Last election, we suddenly had Jack talking about mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes, just as one example. This time around, he opposed May’s inclusion in the debates. Their platform has increasing become a hodge podge of watered down nods to their core raison d’etre of past years. Where the Libs used to steal policy from the NDP to keep them at bay, it seems like the dynamic has changed to the point where the NDP are more of a Liberal-Lite party.

    I can’t think of a single issue where the NDP has distinguised themsleves with a compelling and unique idea – as compared to the Libs or Cons.

    Their current presence in the house is more a factor of historical intertia, and I expect it will eventually run out, with the Libs and the Greens absorbing their votes.

    My two cents…

  4. Aaron, the NDP has never gotten coverage. I could go into the whinge about “corporate media” but I won’t. I’m not a huge Layton fan but I have to respect his persistence and energy in the face of the myth-building and superficial labelling that the media uses to simplify a complex political landscape.
    The real victim in all this is Dion. Such a poor messenger that his message is ignored, even though it’s clear and probably necessary.

  5. Speaking of corporate media, does Macleans rue the day they let this genius slip through their hands?

  6. Sisyphus, I agree. I am fortunate in now having time to really watch, listen and read campaign coverage. It seems the media are turning this into a presidential race in a parliamentary system–with a lot of vacuous stuff and over-simplified interpretations of candidate’s statements (this blogspot and a minority of others excepted,that’s why I read these reporters–and you commenters religiously).

    People are so time-starved these days, they only get snippets of events unfolding in the national campaign, and a lot of those snippets are biased in a particular direction (think Mike Duffy’s well-placed snickers).

    Local candidates see their constituents only during door-knocking tours–and most people don’t even answer the bell.

  7. Sisyphus

    What’s your trick to serenity about NDP not appearing in media much. My dipper friends are even bigger tin foil hat wearers than I am when it comes to rants about msm. I feel sorry for them because they get so wound up and I often agree with them because it’s unfair. Our media is acting as gatekeeper and keeping people away from info they might like to know.

    However, they and I have noticed that NDP is getting lots of coverage since election started as Sunny12 mentions. Good for them that they are starting to be presented as a viable alternative, which they are, and are getting lots of coverage in msm.

  8. jwl. I live in a province where the dominant newspaper lives in regret that Nova Scotia is no longer a British colony, does not honour regimental colours, and whose social awareness extends to the local yacht club. Editorial and news content is organized by a very dim Dan Leger.
    In spite of that the NDP has some local strength.
    The reasons for that I won’t go into. It would take too long and, because it’s the Least Coast,
    it doesn’t really matter.

  9. Sisyphus

    Sounds like we’re both fish out of water. I’m in guelph, which has got to be one of the most left wing cities in Canada. I know more self described ‘communists’ than I do any other ideology.

    One of my dipper friends went to Dal for teachers college years ago and she described the region much like you do.

  10. jwl has dipper friends?!?

  11. charter jet emblazoned with his name travelled 13,484 km

    I hope he enjoys the sight of drowning polar bears in his mind’s eye as he drifts off to sleep every night.

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