The Liberals: Smartest party in the universe - Macleans.ca

The Liberals: Smartest party in the universe

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“You trying to get me to spend money?” a senior official in the Liberal party said to me this afternoon.

“Huh?”

“Your tweet. Cheeky.”

The fog cleared a bit. Ah. I had indeed written something on Twitter about how, weeks after the Conservatives had started running ads attacking Bob Rae’s record as Ontario premier, the NDP had managed to produce ads promoting their own leader, while the Liberals still hadn’t made a move.

So is that going to change?

“Ain’t gonna happen,” Senior Official in the Liberal Party said. 

The Liberals, then, will forego “spending money” to defend their leader, or to share their opinion of the Conservative Prime Minister. Thrifty! They saved money when Stéphane Dion was leader, and they saved money when Michael Ignatieff was leader, and they are going to go right on saving money. Let the Conservatives and NDP “spend money”; the Liberals will be content with 19% in the polls, and full wallets. Thrifty!

Other Liberals have explained their thinking. Bob Rae is, after all, the interim leader of the Liberals. The party can’t “spend money” defending him because the party hasn’t selected him as leader. Besides, why spend Liberal money today to defend what an NDP premier was doing in the early 1990s?

And as long as the Liberals pick another leader to lead them into the next election, then this will all have been devilishly clever of them, because the Conservatives will have spent a mint to discredit a guy who won’t even be around when the votes get cast. Of course nothing will stop the Conservatives from buying another wave of ads against whover the next leader is, but in the meantime? Clever.

Unless Rae does stick around to lead the Liberals into elections in three years. Making him the third Liberal leader in a row to take an airwave whupping, unanswered, will then look less clever.

The Liberals’ problem, of course, is that none of this is a choice, it’s a consequence of choices. Because they’ve decided to take a very long time to pick a leader; and they’ve selected an interim leader with considerable political baggage and uncertain plans for his own future; and because the question of his future plans is highly divisive among Liberals; the whole thing is a nest of tension that can’t be reconciled. Why on earth wouldn’t the Conservatives lob a stink bomb into the middle of that nest?

The Liberals remain a year away from being able to do what, say, Tom Mulcair can do any day at will. Or a shorter distance from rewriting the rules they made a show of writing right after last year’s elections. Meanwhile, they twist.

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