If you go to ndp.ca, you’ll notice something familiar about this left-wing movement: the cult of personality. Now Jack is no Mao, but it sometimes looks like he’s trying. No matter which tab you click on the top menu bar – “A positive choice,” “Issues,” “Local Candidates,” et cetera – you get the same banner across the top. It reads, in big orange letters, “Jack Layton.” All right, time for a quick critique from Jane’s e-PR department. Why is Jack Layton’s name the most prominent thing on this web site? Because, logic dictates, the NDP wants to re-brand…and thinks that a moustachioed middle-aged man with a twinkle in his eye appeals to the hearts and minds of Canadians. Honey, I’m so sorry. And then there’s the two-step NDP slogan: “New energy. A positive choice.” Hmm, this is original. Well, I guess “New energy” refers both to Jack’s, uh, ebullient personality and his focus on renewable energy. (I admit, as the only party leader ever to have the environment portfolio, big ups to him….) And then, “A positive choice.” Well, other than the obvious fact that no party would deny being a positive choice, I think what this refers to is, once again, sunny Jack. So basically, the slogan is: “Hey, forget Bob Rae and the B.C. guys, and those weird chick party leaders from the nineties with no chutzpah, it’s all about Jack now, yeah, Jack. Groovy, baby. Wind mills, and solar panels, and green cars, wow!
…instead of selling us on these issues, they’re selling Jack. A used-car salesman when the lot is full of green-friendly hybrid Cadillacs? That’s not smart. It’s stupid. I don’t mean that Jack shouldn’t be the party’s leader. There doesn’t seem, for the moment, to be anyone better. And he is quite good. It just means he needs to step back and give the issues some space to breathe. If Canadians wanted a personality contest, they wouldn’t vote for Martin, Harper, or Duceppe. They’re all jack-asses (no pun intended), each in his own right. And unless the NDP plans on finding a left-leaning Tom Cruise, they shouldn’t be pushing personality politics either. In fact, it’s the issues where the NDP is strongest. So what the NDP should do is push a politics of concrete change. Not just “ideas,” as in those dorky ads from the last election. But actual, concrete policy. Because what they come up with is good and most people would probably agree.