The buzzword from New Democrats as they began their caucus meeting in Quebec City was “unity.” In fact that word seemed to be on the lips of every MP.
Just because they say it a lot, does it really make it true?
By nature, leadership races are meant to divide parties. When you have multiple candidates your members will split up into camps and turn on each other. It’s all in an effort to rally more support for the person they think should lead the team. I guess you could say it’s like a political civil war.
At times it can get pretty passionate, just ask the Liberals. Some would argue they still haven’t recovered from the internal power struggle of Jean Chretien vs. Paul Martin.
I decided to chat with Political Scientist Cheryl Collier about the issues facing the NDP. She believes if Deputy Leader Thomas Mulcair ends up running (it would be a surprise if he doesn’t), it’s very likely the party will be divided and face a serious internal struggle.
Mulcair represents the centre leaning side of the party and has much support from the large Quebec caucus. Meanwhile the only declared candidate at this point, Brian Topp, is on the left side of the political spectrum and has deep roots with unions. He also has the endorsement of former leader Ed Broadbent, and that holds a lot of sway in the party. Heck if it weren’t for Broadbent’s thumbs up, Jack Layton may not have done so well in 2003.
These two are already considered the top contenders, so let the battle of the NDP juggernauts begin!
In defense of the party, members can’t just give in to the divisions that will likely come. They need to have a “unified” front against any split so they can try to prevent issues from popping up. Public relations firms will be the first to tell you that if you repeat a message often enough, sometimes it sticks. That’s probably why we’ll hear the word “unity” a heck of a lot more over the next six months.
But in the end no one should be kidding themselves; these contests often leave battle scars.
When New Democrats say they will stay unified through this leadership process, Collier sums up her thoughts pretty clearly: “There’s a little bit of wishful thinking there. It’s not impossible, but it’s going to be an interesting race.” Let’s see what happens.