IT SEEMS THAT MICHAEL IGNATIEFF'S LIBERALS ARE SPINNING APART faster than a Wall St. investment bank. Advisors and key staffers are slipping out the back door, caucus members are voting however the hell they want and support for the Liberals is stuck like an oxcart in the mud.
How is this possible? The Tories have been shown to be incompetent, mean spirited and not a little bit crazy. The economy is in the tank with unemployment rising, while labour force participation is falling. The Tories were caught spending extra stimulus bucks in their ridings to shore up the vote and then tried to cover it up in the most ham-fisted fashion by first giving only the most minimal information. Then, when Kevin Page, Parliament's independent budget watchdog, requested more info they passed along 4,476 pages of documents rather than the electronic spreadsheet on the computer of the Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Chris Day. Then they attacked Page as a Liberal lackey - even though they created the office and appointed him to the job.
In the foreign policy department, the Afghan mission is going south at high velocity with generals openly talking about losing, and the Americans abandoning the countryside to insurgents. Canadian generals are already beginning plans for a pullout - in other words a surrender, after losing 133 soldiers. For nothing.
In other words, the Tories should be sitting ducks, fish in a barrel. They are the proverbial broadside of a barn. Yet, Ignatieff has singularly managed to miss every time for the simple reason that he is fundamentally a neo-conservative. He can't fight the Tories because he doesn't disagree with them on anything of substance. And because of that, the only thing Ignatieff has to build support for the Liberals is his charm (ahem) and spin. And he has the political instincts of a june bug. Why a june bug? I don't know but I don't imagine you would want your political party to be led by an insect that continually flies into closed windows. Crap, I can't help but think that the Liberals must be truly screwed if they chose him as the "strong leader" after what's-his-face-green-shift-guy: Droopy Dog.
Iggy is now discovering an inexorable law of politics, that a leader of a political party who can't provide leadership, who can't demonstrate an alternative to their political opponents - especially when they are on the bottom, such a leader is doomed to decay. Sooner or later the loyalty that bound his team to him will wear thin and they will head for the exit doors. That's what's happening here. It's the sign of a sinking ship. My prediction is that Iggy's days are numbered - and not a very high number either. My second prediction is that his shoes will be filled by perennial traitor and ego maniac, Bob Rae.
Rae is a sharper political fish than Iggy. He will pull a chunk of people from the NDP into the Liberal camp (perhaps enough to make the difference when an election rolls around). That will send the NDP into a panic and they will (my third prediction) try to stem the flow by accommodating to the pull rightwards - thus proving that the Liberals are a more rational choice for the centre-left than the perennial vote losers of the NDP.* He will pull in Green voters, most of whom are disaffected Liberals anyway. And Rae will be a much harder, much smarter, opponent than Harper is used to. He also knows how to run a caucus. I predict that Bob Rae will be the next Prime Minister of Canada. God help us.
* Hey, don't get me wrong, I hope that the NDP pulls left and focuses on grassroots mobilization behind some real issues - as opposed to stupid bank charges. And I hope they stop voting for the Tories. But I'm too cynical to hold my breath on that one.