No wild partying here at Jack Layton’s headquarters. It’s odd, given what’s happened. New Democrats were cheering as the results flowed in, pushing them up into the triple digits. Since them, the din has died down. Perhaps the corresponding rise of the Conservatives into majority territory is what’s keeping them from cutting loose.
Nobody in the NDP will say this, of course, but this result is arguably the best possible news for Layton. It means he will get to be Leader of the Opposition, but not face the prospect of a Tory minority falling quickly, and forcing him into a series of politically fraught decisions. Instead, it looks like he will get the traditional four years to consolidate tonight’s historic achievement.
A night when the Conservatives and NDP are both huge winners has a certain symmetry to it. In 2003, Stephen Harper united the right and Jack Layton took over the NDP. They both brought stability and professionalism to their parties. Both built through four elections of steady gains. During the years when they’ve kept teams intact, learned from mistakes, built on success, the Liberals have gone through three leaders, and even more fundamental changes in strategy.
I waded out into the crowd here a few moments ago, and there’s more staring wide-eyed at the screens than there is, say, hugging or dancing or high-fiving. Maybe that will come later. For now, an air of amazement rather than joy prevails.
Okay, I have to admit, they went pretty crazy when they heard that Peggy Nash beat Gerard Kennedy in Parkdale. This is a Toronto crowd, I guess. They want to hear about their own.