Ottawa ON – Layton’s assertion that the NDP is the true alternative to the Conservatives and the NDP’s reluctance to talk about a merger with the Liberals makes sense, at least that is for the next four years. Riding on his party’s election victory Layton has his hands full and it won’t get any easier for quite some time.
Such talks would be a distraction from what should be the focus for the NDP right now- learning the role of Official Opposition. With a new caucus that will be a challenge to handle and train, Layton and his senior MPs have quite a task on their hands to mould their caucus into a “government-in-waiting” which is what the Official Opposition is supposed to be.
Nor will things get easier for Layton once the House resumes sitting. Over the last week Canadians have already had a few good chuckles at the NDP’s expense and once the House returns and all of their MPs come under the intense scrutiny of the media, we will probably have a few more. They will have to pick up their game quite a bit if they want voters to still vote “orange” in the next election. With so much on their plate, it is simply too early for the NDP to talk merger.
On the other hand, reality has not yet set in with the Liberals. The true extent of their defeat will only be felt when they hold a caucus meeting and so many former friends and colleagues are there to say good bye. In the weeks that follow they will be looking around the caucus table at a hard core of survivors who will be determined to resurrect the brand.
The survivors won’t want to talk merger at this time as it is simply too early. Instead there will be lots of bravado and talk about how voters made a mistake this time and that their time will come next election if only…. Maybe their time will come again, maybe it won’t, the Liberal Party has always been fairly resilient and in spite of their present misfortune, still have an organization and a core of experienced MPs to draw upon.
Reality will sink in over time. In the initial weeks and months their experience will help the Liberals to get some positive media coverage, but as the NDP settle into their new role as the Official Opposition, they too will gain experience. With almost a 3 to 1 advantage in the number of questions they can ask, NDP MPs will garner the majority of the media coverage. With only an interim leader to head the Liberal caucus, they will soon find out that media attention will shift away from them and just how difficult it is to earn media and get into the public eye.
It is too early for either party to talk seriously about a merger. Give it time and eventually the advantages just might out weigh the disadvantages, but that time is still years away.