It’s official. The Liberal party strategy is a dud. A new Ipsos Reid poll — Conservatives 39, Liberals 28 — is the latest signal. While no one should read too much into one opinion sampling, the downward trend has been apparent for months.
Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals are backpedalling toward the lows of Stéphane Dion — and they shouldn’t be surprised.
What else can be expected when you put out no new policies, no new vision, a leader who appears indecisive, and no sustained attack strategy on Stephen Harper?
The operation needs an overhaul and it needs it now. Iggy has been too beholden to a handful of advisers who brought him into politics. That’s what happened to Paul Martin. The former prime minister placed too much power in the hands of a few close political friends.
The plan after Ignatieff took over the leadership last December was to play it safe. Canadians would be happy to see Dion gone. They would be excited by Iggy’s fresh intellect. The Conservatives were coming off an embarrassing few months. The deep recession would carry Harper to his grave.
But the recession was short-lived and Iggy showed up with an empty bucket. His advisers kept him in low gear. Opposition leaders should only oppose, they told him. That might work for some, but not in Ignatieff’s case. He was a world-renowned intellectual. He was expected to have new and captivating ideas for a public that was fed up with old-style politics.
As for opposing, the Liberals haven’t done a good job of that either. They don’t know how to keep the government on the defensive. The leader is a talented writer but there’s been no show of rapier wit or memorable phrases cutting the prime minister to the quick.
There’s been little to separate him in the public mind from what Harper stands for. The notion that the Liberals could somehow capture the public imagination with an issue like employment insurance reform was cockeyed.
Iggy’s office, which has done a good job on party financing and organization, says the national media hasn’t been covering him this summer. The reason he hasn’t been covered is he has had nothing really striking to say. Had he gone to Washington to see his Liberal soulmate, Barack Obama, that would have made for big headlines. He hasn’t done it.
The latest brutal poll might actually do the Liberals some good. It might be the one that convinces them to change course. Dissenters close to the leader’s shop will now have the ammunition to demand a change of strategy. They must do so. Otherwise Iggy risks becoming Icarus.