Clowns Playing Chess
How not to run an effective opposition. “It’s raining frogs across the aisle,” Industry Minister Tony Clement said.
It was a gong show last night in the Commons for Michael Ignatieff and his Liberals; one Liberal MP is even calling it “clown city.”
First, the Liberal motion on the Harper government’s maternal health initiative, aimed at stirring up the Tory bench over reproductive issues, such as abortion, failed. The Grits lost the vote after three of their own MPs opposed it; others abstained and some Liberal MPs, who are pro-life, were told to stay away from the Commons, according to sources.
Now, before people get too worked up over this, let's get a little perspective. The number of Canadians aware of this vote pales in comparison to the number aware of this week's American Idol vote. And, for good reason. Unlike on Idol, this was a non-binding vote, so the end result would have been the same whether or not the motion was carried. The point of the motion was to get people talking about abortion and, for better or worse, the Liberals did just that.
But even though voters won't notice what happened, it was a bit of a mess-up, and it will push the media narrative against Ignatieff. It illustrates extreme disorganization and disunity, and it's another example of Ignatieff's willingness to get a little bit too cute at times - what with probation report cards and EI deals and the sort.
Everyone else is guilty of the same - the prorogation fiasco is an example of Harper falling flat on his face. Even Duceppe's opposition day motion on the Quebec nation didn't exactly turn out the way he wanted it to. And in fairness to Ignatieff, he's looking for a wedge issue, and Liberal strategists have dreamt for years about fighting an election on abortion.
But with all the talk of certain politicians "playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers", it might do some of these guys a lot of good to recognize that maybe, just maybe, they actually are playing a game of checkers. The ultra-clever strategy is fun to talk about over beers at Darcy McGee's but the point of the game is really just about giving people an easy-to-understand reason to vote for you and communicating that.
There's nothing wrong with keeping it simple. Especially when you have this much trouble with the complicated stuff.