Don Martin: After six months of Singh, doubts surface that he's just not ready
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with reporters following caucus on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday January 31, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Published Thursday, March 29, 2018 5:52PM EDT
Leadership is hard.
Just ask Jagmeet Singh as he marks six months in the NDP leadership with back-to-back mea-culpas to a caucus starting to wonder if they’re being led into electoral battle by an overnight dud.
With the glory of his GQ magazine cover a fading memory, Singh been confronted by an almost unprecedented caucus backlash which cannot be entirely erased by his undeniable charisma and charm.
Not since Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day was forced to call a snap leadership vote by walkaway MPs in 2001 has a party leader endured so much open and whispered doubt about his abilities.
And it’s not just sour grapes and gripes from leadership losers – it’s wide and deep inside a caucus that, by and large, didn’t support his candidacy and rarely bonds with him in Ottawa as he is a leader without a Commons seat.
Those videos featuring Singh sharing a stage with Sikh separatists were toxic in the party’s Quebec stronghold. And his inexplicable decision to punish a senior NDP MP for refusing to support a Liberal veto on jobs grants to anti-abortion causes was very badly received in public and private.
In both cases, Singh furiously backpedaled, but the damage was done and the doubts planted.
Ironically, the Prime Minister was so rattled by the prospect of Singh-mania that Justin Trudeau devoted days of his debacle in Delhi to collecting images of himself with Sikh leaders and landmarks to counter what he thought would be a formidable opponent.
Now insiders are bracing for a Quebec NDP wipeout - this despite Singh being celebrated for a superior performance on a Quebec television show two weeks ago where mere survival is a rite of passage for politicians of all stripes.
What’s worse, Singh’s missteps and zen-like demeanor come on top of other irritants to his fellow caucus members.
They cringe when Singh describes the victims of any form of harassment as 'survivors', which offends anyone who has experienced life-threatening trauma.
And they wince at his treatment of mild-mannered MP Erin Weir, who endured Singh’s nationally televised shaming three months ago over perceived misconduct that nobody has yet substantiated.
It’s far from hopeless for the new leader - and this is the season of resurrections, after all.
But Jagmeet Singh quickly needs to master the hard part of leadership or caucus doubts will spread to voters, leaving them to wonder if the NDP has a leader who is just not ready.
That's the Last Word.