Conservatives pick a leader
Isn’t it curious that with both opposition parties in Ottawa leaderless, one party has, so far, absolutely no one running for the leadership, whereas the Conservatives have so many running that it’s difficult to identify them all? What gives?
Is it the case that the NDP harbours no leadership-qualified members, whereas the Tories have too many? And we’re told this is the Conservatives’ B team? Has the NDP not nurtured leaders? Or are the Tory ranks filled with wannabes?
Whatever, there are at least 14 candidates to lead the Conservatives – too many to start picking favourites at this date. Rather than consider individual MPs, we’re left with the issues they face and their platforms.
One principle to recall is that the Leader is the party’s centre. If she moves to the right, so will the party, in varying degrees. If the leader moves to the centre, she or he will be followed by most of the party. So it is important to decide where on the political spectrum fall the front-runners. They pull the whole party.
A second consideration is that the Conservatives already own the right-wing vote. To promote a right-wing agenda (from immigration to foreign affairs), would be preaching to the choir. There are few new votes for the Conservatives on the right.
Trump, of course, courted the far right and the lumpen, but this was in the primaries, designed to separate himself from a crowded field. The Tories have two contenders trying this tactic, pushing views unexpectedly extreme, and we assume they are attempting to separate themselves from the crowd.
In a national election, the Tories have one real option: move to the centre and pull in disgruntled voters from other parties. They own the Right; the Centre is the only area open for growth.
Would this mean a return to the original party, the Progressive Conservatives? Although a name change is unlikely, this may be a wise tactic for someone to propose. The last time this party got my vote they were called the PCs.
Conservatism divides into two streams: economic/fiscal and social. Here we expect to see the candidates diverge, some fiscally stricter than others, others socially cautious and tradition-bound. Others may almost seem liberal-minded.
However, in today’s conditions, neither stream seems willing to go back to classic conservative values: the gold standard, for example, with tighter credit, less consumption. Or, socially, promoting religion and hetero-family values. This old-fashioned stuff was long ago rejected by most Canadians, Tories included.
Lastly, we should watch for hot-button key-words. These hide more stark philosophies -- “Canadian values”, for example, means “anti-immigrant”, not more outdoor activities, hockey, or politeness.
It’s still early to finger leaders in this field of 14, but it helps to stay alert to these distinctions and especially pick up on the key words as we sort the field out. Once the A-team is all in, the game will certainly change.