Rex weighs in on the future of the Liberal Party.

Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode

Liberal Leadership

Thursday, January 19, 2012

After last weekend we may declare the Liberals are well above ground, accomodating the daylight splendidly, and giving every indication that -- the bruising they received in the last election notwithstanding -- they’re ready to go back to work.

That election was almost Old Testament, how are thou fallen. We have to remind ourselves how fierce was the hit they took, blasted from being Kings of the Game, the most highly-evolved-vote-siphon the Canadas have ever seen, to rump, third place, bumbling finishers.

It was the poor Liberal campaign that gave  the number two parliamentary slot to the NDP and gave the the great sasquatch of their troubled nightmares -- the ‘evil’ Stephen Harper -- a majority. It's a point to remember. Harper is a majority Prime Minister these days, largely because of the grossly inept efforts of the Liberals in the last campaign.

Yet, here they were this last weekend, not at all wearing the face of a rejected, diminished, going-out-of-sale party, but that of a bunch that’s partly heard the message of the electorate, attempting to mend their long-broken acquaintanace with humility, having a brief last waltz with Shelia Copps, and overall apparently, a good time.

Now,  some of this good fortune isn't of their own making. The NDP having climbed the parliamentary mountain and gotten a fair glimpse of the promised land -- they are the Opposition Party for the first time in history -- went on what looks to be the equivalent of a political holiday.

It's quite amazing that a party in second place for the first time, in the process of electing a  potential Prime Minister, has managed to do it in a state very close to secrecy. The NDP leadership race, so far, has all the fascination of Mitt Romney adjusting his tie.

How do you hide a leaderhip contest? I can’t really tell you, but the people running the NDP are making a good go of it so far. As a consquence, even someone in politics as long as Bob Rae, someone who’s being around the political block so often he’s left a groove in the cement, has been given the spotlight, gets top booking and also a rare opportunity to re-introduce himself to Canadians at a age when most politicos are saying farewell.

Looked at from this oblique angle the NDP leadership contest has been the best vehicle for the rennovation of Bob Rae that could have been devised.

All of which is oozing him into the title of Liberal leader, not interim as promised. Are they going to kick out this "good steward" after his labours?

And, Who’s to oppose him? Justin Trudeau is busy growing a beard or shaving one off, or playing a version of Rocky Stallone Balboa MP. Dominic LeBlanc and other worthy contenders can hardly get on the public agenda, so much does "leader" Rae occupy the spotlight.

Well, not the party's warhorses, nor its high-profile celebrity are position to challenge him. Mr. Rae has chosen an  interesting time to be a Liberal.

For The National, I'm Rex Murphy.