Mulcair’s weary, winning moment

A flat speech raises the question, is Mulcair as skillful a political performer as he has mostly been given credit for?

Frank Gunn/CP Images

Thomas Mulcair’s victory here at the NDP leadership convention in Toronto came after a wearying day of technical delays that stretched the voting, and vote-counting, hours later than expected. Still, the partisan crowd was, if not exactly pumped, at least eager to cheer his win.

He didn’t make it easy for them. A too-long speech from the podium featured such rousing material as statistics on low youth voter turnout. I couldn’t help but notice that the first spontaneous burst of applause he generated was with a line about how Jack Layton had given folks reason to believe.

At yesterday’s so-called leaders’ showcase, Mulcair’s awful speech was forgivable (and forgiven by most) as the result of his need to rush at a ridiculous pace to make up for the fact that his advance convention-floor hoopla had eaten into his allotted speaking time. There was no similar excuse for the victory speech falling as flat as it did.

And this raises a question: is Mulcair as skillful a political performer as he has mostly been given credit for during this race? The book on him has been that he’s got top-drawer ability as a retail politician, even if his behind-the-scenes style with those who must work closely with him can be a bit prickly.

In fact, the evidence of the convention is that he is far from a can’t-miss proposition as a deliverer of set-piece speeches. There are other important skills in modern politics—handling a broadcast interview, sparring in debates or in the House—but being able to come through when old-fashioned oratory is needed still counts.

So he’ll have to work on it. It might seem too narrow a focus to concentrate on speechifying, but here’s the thing about mass political gatherings of all sorts—that’s largely what they are about. Tomorrow, Mulcair is expected to meet the media for his first news conference as NDP leader. Handling one of those is another basic element of his new job. To start putting to rest doubts raised over the past two days, he needs to look better than sure-footed.




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Mulcair’s weary, winning moment

  1. The libs would have to be mad to not keep Rae around for a while longer. As you point out JG, becoming the full package takes time and even then there are no guarantees. 

    • Don’t get the appeal of Bob Rae. He strikes me as nothing but an angry man devoid of ideas. I see no leadership qualities in him at all.

  2. He did fine debating your former editor over the Quebec = corrupt front page. Giving speeches is a separate skill from debating. Mulcair may be better at the latter because he thinks quickly. However, he is in luck, because our political system prioritizes debating over speech-making. It will be his debating skills that get tested every day in parliament, not his speaking skills. 

  3. Thomas Mulcair is more than capable of “speechifying”… in testament to that fact is that debating is a far more difficult task than the aforementioned, and he’s more than capable in the arena of debate  At minimum he is at least as capable in oral communque’s as this author is in writing unbiased conclusions about political prowess based upon one (albeit fatigued) acceptance speech.  It is beyond suspect to dismiss Mulcair as a political newb, and begs the question: What would you have done better John Geddes?

  4. You mean he gave a speech??
    I clicked the clicker 15 minutes into his Thank yous.

  5. Doesn’t matter./ The Quebec membership and vote is antipathy to the western leftists. In Quebec political loyalty is like the Spring tides.  One time Liberal, on time Progressive Con, one time NDP, one time Bloc  About as permanent as our influence in Afghanistan.   The big thing for Quebec is “who can win and how much can we get out of it either by sucking up or threatening to leave.”

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