The puzzle that is Jagmeet Singh: what are we to do with you, Jagmeet?
Andrew Coyne has a typically thoughtful piece in today’s National Post about the erstwhile New Democratic leader. Mr. Coyne:
It is safe to say Singh has not proved quite the rock star New Democrats hoped when they elected him leader in October 2017. Undertaker would be closer to the mark. While the party trundles along at a little under 17 per cent in the polls, about its historic average, Singh himself is in single digits, slightly behind Elizabeth May as Canadians’ choice for prime minister.
Singh’s trajectory is a cautionary tale on the importance of experience in politics. With just six years in the Ontario legislature, Singh was barely ready for the job of provincial leader, still less the much sharper scrutiny to which federal leaders are subject. It has showed.
He appears frequently to be poorly briefed, on one memorable occasion having to ask a member of caucus, in full view of the cameras, what the party position was on a particular issue. He badly mishandled what should have been a softball question on where he stood on Sikh terrorism, and alienated many in the party with his knee-jerk expulsion of Saskatchewan MP Erin Weir for what appeared to be no worse a crime than standing too close to women at parties.
I write about him in next week’s Hill Times, too. This what I say:
Jagmeet Singh is the worst federal party leader since Stockwell Day. He has led his party to historic lows in public opinion. And his political instincts – as seen in his caucus relations, his policy stands, and his byzantine approach to securing seat in the House of Commons – are non-existent.
So, we’re all agreed on one point: Jagmeet Singh has been a disaster.
Another point of agreement: the Conservatives tend to win when the NDP do better than they’re doing under Singh’s reign of error. Conversely, the Liberals tend to win when the NDP do what they’re doing now, which is dropping like a proverbial stone. That’s a Canadian political truism.
Anyway, those are the points of agreement. Where I diverge with Professor Coyne is here: I divine no logic – none – in the way the parties are treating the Burnaby South by-election. Unlike the learned Coyne, I cannot observe the outlines of any brilliant strategy at work, here. To wit:
- If the Liberals really thought Singh was a disaster, why have they taken so bloody long to call the by-election in Burnaby? Why haven’t they extended the “leader’s courtesy,” like the Greens have, and pledge not to run someone against him? Why not get him in the House, to further advertise his failings?
- If the Conservatives really wanted to help the New Democrats out, why are they even contesting the by-election? Why not make his life easier, instead of harder? Do they really think they’re in any way assisted by Singh being marked up – or defeated – in a nasty by-election contest, thereby throwing the Dippers into further leadership chaos in the 200-plus days remaining until the October election? (Similarly, if the Cons think a new and better leader is warranted, who would that be? Why do they think that guy – Messrs. Cullen or Angus, I surmise – would do any better? I don’t.)
- If the New Democrats really wanted to get their act together, why the sweet Jesus did they let their leader even contest Burnaby, where they’re in third place – instead of Singh’s hometown of Brampton, which he easily won, and represented, for years?
None of it makes any sense to me. It’s all stupid. Unlike Mr. Coyne, I can attribute no grand strategic vision to any of this. It’s a shambles, for all the parties. And it recalls the very first Kinsellian Political Rule™:
Never discount the possibility they did it because they’re just, you know, stupid.