The NDP's secret strategy
Today we got a secret memo from the New Democratic Party and the news that we'll be allowed to view their campaign-ready election headquarters in the coming days. We journalists are simple folk, but we do know how to interpret this: the NDP is keen to fight an election. We know this because party people are telling us that. We're clever that way.
It is always dangerous to veer into what may be the alternative strategy, but I'm going to take a speculative leap. I keep wondering if the NDP wants us to think they're ready to fight an election so that their efforts to avoid an election are not portrayed as election-avoidance. In other words, they want, maybe even need a deal with Conservatives, because they saw the by-election results a couple of months ago and thought: "We're not ready!" So when they do look for a deal to support the Conservatives around the budget, they won't be accused of desperation. (By-election results here: NDP, not in the game.)
Staying in this speculative vein, I also wonder if the Conservatives would be motivated to make a deal with Layton, because they need the NDP to be strong, taking votes away from the Liberals. Divided opposition, and all that -- the same thing that helped Chretien in three elections, and the same thing that has been helping Harper. The by-elections, framed as a big win for the Conservatives in Toronto, were also a glimpse into an election that only featured two parties: the Liberals and Conservatives. That doesn't end well for the Conservatives if translated into a general election. If all the not-Conservative vote coalesces behind the Liberals, that's the end of Conservative rule. (And you wonder why they don't like coalitions?)
All this, I stress, is speculation. But it may be a product of being in Ottawa too long -- when someone's anxious to tell you something's true, you have to wonder what's behind the effort.