From inside the New Democratic Party caucus comes a newish idea to unite the anti-Stephen Harper vote...Still, unlike more pie-in-the sky notions of a formal merger between the Liberals and NDP, Cullen’s idea might just work.
Walkom points out that Nathan Cullen is interested in what it takes to win power (the real test of political skill, in my view):
A dark horse candidate for the leadership of his party, Cullen is very much a Jack Layton New Democrat. As he told me once, he has little interest in making grand but ultimately pointless moral gestures. Rather, he said, politicians should run to win. And they should win in the hope of forming government.
Walkom writes that the Cullen plan has the virtue of being practical:
While a real merger plan would force both parties to confront these almost insurmountable obstacles head-on, Cullen’s scheme has the virtue of being far less formal.
Both parties would continue to exist, each with its own leader, caucus and policy platform.
At the same time, both would agree to give individual riding associations the option, should they desire it, of holding joint nomination meetings.
“It would be sort of like a U.S. primary,” Cullen told me Wednesday night in a telephone interview from an Ottawa restaurant, where he was explaining his plan to other New Democrat MPs.
Whoever won the joint nomination would, under Cullen’s plan, contest the election under the banner of his own party.
That framing of the Cullen Plan as being similar to an American primary is an interesting one. Of course, a US primary is a primary of one party, while the Cullen Plan envisages members from two independent parties coming together in a primary of convenience. But Cullen's use of the primary as a model is a good one, because it captures the flavour of competition that the Cullen Plan NDP/LPC primaries would entail.
One could see the battles between the members of the two parties at the primary being fierce. However, the attraction for me is what takes place before the primary starts. If the Cullen Plan was adopted, I could see the competition taking the form of a mad rush by both parties to sign up as many members as possible, so as to have the most votes at the primary.
Consider that for a moment. The excitement engendered by such a membership campaign would mean thousands more committed members for both parties, who would unite to have the chosen candidate elected. This excitement would be of priceless value during the election itself, and the Tories would face a formidable foe, a united opposition, with substantially increased numbers of committed and seasoned by primary supporters fanning out to turf the Tory.
Walkom puts his finger on what might drive the Cullen Plan to fruition – the members of both parties:
I believe we will see such pressure exerted big time in coming polls. And any leader – or candidate running for leadership – who opposes such pressure runs a great risk, both personally and for his or her party.The real pressure both parties face, however, comes from voters desperate to oust the Harper Conservatives.