I came to this yesterday after watching the rather impressive interview given by Michael Ignatieff to Peter Mansbridge. Given a chance to express himself in the calm of a studio, Ignatieff gave an excellent account of himself. And although pressured unreasonably by Mansbridge on the question of what he would do in the event of various hypothetical results, he gave what I thought was a fairly scholarly, but absolutely correct description of how Parliament works. At the end, I thought, “Well, he must have done himself some good with this interview, at least.”
Within minutes, however, the commentariat gathered to pontificate on Evan Solomon’s (hopelessly self-important) show, were denouncing Ignatieff for having, they indicated, fallen into one of the oldest traps in the business of elections. He had talked extensively about something that, they said, he would never have mentioned if he had had any sense. They were raising, not to put too fine a point on it, an immense hoo-haa which simply took my breath away. Instead of praising the guy for the clarity, straightforward honesty and precision of his observations, they were denouncing him in the most strident tones, as if they alone knew all the secrets of how to win an election, and anyone who varied from their idiot prescriptions deserved the warmest condemnation.
Give us a break, fellers! You are a bunch of trumped up, narcissistic amateurs pretending to be seasoned professionals.
Ignatieff gave a measured account of what would happen if Harper, having won the most seats, but short of a majority, were unable to receive the backing of the House of Commons. What would happen then? insisted Mansbridge. Well, said Ignatieff, what would happen is that he would go to the governor-general, who would decide either to dissolve Parliament and call another election, or ask the party leader with the next-largest number of seats if he could try to receive the support of the House of Commons. This leader would canvass the other parties for their support, trying to find what compromises each party would have to make to make such a thing work.
That is how the system works, said Ignatieff. I respect the system, and I want to tell Canadians that I respect the system, and will work within it.
What the hell is wrong with that? Ignatieff, for reasons that escape me, has always insisted he will never enter a coalition, in other words, if he forms a government he would not include ministers from other parties. Mansbridge asked him why had this idea of coalition, which was working satisfactorily in most parliamentary democracies, become such a dirty word?
There was one curious aspect to Ignatieff’s interview. He said he could have been Prime Minister, if he had accepted the proposal made a couple of years ago for a coalition. But, after signing on, he had changed his mind, and rejected it “because I thought it was not in the national interest.” That certainly shows a becoming modesty, but it also leaves him open to the charge that he really didn’t want to be Prime Minister, one of the reasons, no doubt, for his having flounderd so badly through his time as Leader of the Opposition.
Still, to hear these idiots of the commentariat declaiming in horror at Ignatieff’s gaffe, as they described it, one would have thought he had precipitated a world war. I don’t support Ignatieff, but it seems that the poor guy is irrevocably fated to be damned whatever he does or says.
So on, Jack Layton: it is beginning to seem that the only hope of beating the damnable and dangerous Harper lies with you.