If British political chatter wasn’t so dominated by looking to the US…

… I suspect we’d all be paying rather more attention to Canadian politics.

The Canadian Liberal Party’s 2004 federal election victory is one that should be the sort to appeal to Labour in current times: long serving Chancellor takes over as Prime Minister, becomes unpopular, faces revitalised Conservative Party – but manages to pull victory out of the hat at the last:

A Liberal Prime Minister who ran against the legacy of his own party as much as against the Opposition, criticized not for the failure but for the success of his policies, facing his main opposition from a newly reconstituted Conservative party that was unable to control the worrisome views of some of its most prominent adherents … It was not a campaign that cheered the Liberal party, saved as it was only by a late splurge of negative advertising.

I suspect that had this election taken place in the US, it would be all the talk of British political circles as to whether or not it could offer a template for Gordon Brown to rescue Labour. But as the election took place in Canada…

The above quote, by the way, is from Turning Points by Ray Argyle, which is available from Amazon if you want to find out more about this and other Canadian elections.

UPDATE: Here are some lessons the Liberal Democrats can learn from the Canadian Liberals.

0 responses to “If British political chatter wasn’t so dominated by looking to the US…”

  1. Of course we could go beyond this to a Conservative minority government being elected in 2006 and surviving on its wits since then (albeit mainly thanks to an weak opposition….) I suspect Cameron and co have been studying Canadian politics a bit more than Her Majesty’s political press….

  2. I think the same could be said for Britain learning the lessons from *any* political system other than the USA, although the Paul Martin parallels are interesting I agree.

    Another one to keep an eye on is the experience in Sweden in 2006. Göran Persson, a grumpy, bullying and reticent leader of the Social Democrats was trying to rejuvenate the party, hoping for a 4th general election victory. Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of the ‘new’ Moderates (Nya Moderaterna) managed to win the election, despite at the time not really being trusted across his party. The ages of the leaders in question – Persson b. 1949, Reinfeldt b. 1965, Brown b. 1951, Cameron b. 1966 – are also rather similar.

    Labour would also do well to pay attention to what has happened to the Social Democrats after Mona Sahlin took over from Persson – gripes with possible coalition partners and an enduring slump in the polls despite a 4% contraction in the Swedish economy this year.

  3. Good point Jon. I guess there is at least the excuse that for non-English speaking countries it is usually that bit harder to find out information. But that doesn’t excuse ignoring Canada, NZ and Australia, especially given the similarity of their political systems to ours.

  4. Yes, language is undoubtedly an issue… but there are sources in English for a lot of European political systems too. Try the admittedly rather right wing ‘The Local’ – http://www.thelocal.se/ – for Sweden.

    Also the parallels with Canada, Australia and NZ are more relevant in party political terms than the USA – party structures are much stronger.

    I’ve just returned home from 10 days of holiday in Québec and 4 days working in Sweden so all of these parallels are very much in my mind at the moment! 🙂

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