Has all work and no play made Jack a dull boy?

Are the knives out for Jack Layton and his leadership of the NDP?

He’s never boasted greater than 20% vote share in a federal election for the party, and since the coalition crisis he’s gone from top to bottom of who Canadian’s trust to run the country.

Hell, the head of the Canadian Autoworkers Union and the Toronto Star are basically calling for a new New Democrat.

But wait, Hargrove from the CAW and Layton haven’t really gotten along since 2006, when Hargrove endorsed the Liberals as the “strategic” vote. The Ontario NDP even revoked Hargrove’s party membership, so I’m not sure that the New Democrats need to give two shits what he thinks.

Later in 2006, Layton’s leadership received 92% support (tying only Preston Manning for popular approval in his party) from the party at their convention.

Next, we have the Toronto Star’s Chantal H├ębert saying that Layton’s following the same downward path as Harper. Of course, the case could be made that the TorStar has it in for Layton, with a history of reporting false accusations about him. And as one commenter to this story points out:

The drop in popularity of the NDP lately has NOTHING whatsoever to do with the policies of the party or its leadership and EVERYTHING to do with how those policies are willfully ignored or dishonestly demonized by those who control our media. To paraphrase the question: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it fall… If the message isn’t permitted to be heard, did anyone say anything? If Canadians were honestly informed about the NDP and not constantly bombarded with simple-minded insults directed at the left along with deliberate misrepresentations of their policies, the NDP would indeed be miles in front of Conservatism in this country, both the Ignatieff and Harper versions of it. What’s the solution? Break up the media empires. And remove commentary like this from print. Really, has Ms. Hebert got anything SUBSTANTIVE to say about NDP policy? …I thought not.

Which received 27-35 agree/disagree.

So what policy has the NDP brought forth since prorogation?

There is the non-binding EI reform legislations that just past the House (with no Conservative support). But EI isn’t the kind of thing that actually helps the unemployed of Canada… well maybe it does.

Where does this leave Mr. Layton’s leadership?

He has doubled the NDP’s vote share in the 3 elections he’s been leader, and brought the party from the 13 seats he inherited to 37 in 2008, second only to 43 seats that Ed Broadbent picked up in 1988 (also the only other time Alberta elected a NDP MP).

It’s worth comparing 1988 to 2008 a little more. Broadbent claimed no seats in Eastern Canada while today the strong support in BC and Saskatchewan has been traded for half a dozen seats out East.

It took Ed Broadbent 12 years to take his party to 43 seats, while Layton has only had 6.

When I talk politics with people though, Layton is never that popular. They just don’t trust him. But it’s hard for me to imagine any New Democrat leader breaking the perceptions that surround the party. They all seem to be vilified and not given an actual chance at the doorstep (with the exception of 42.6% of Edmonton-Strathcona voters – some of whom still despise Layton). So it’s hard for me to say if any other leader could do as well as Layton.

Unfortunately, Layton has had little media coverage since the budget, and the media seems enamoured with the Ignatieff vs. Harper battle they want to see fought. I’m not sure how to change this, but he needs to keep the NDP relevant if he wants to get his polling numbers back up.

There will be a Federal NDP convention in Halifax in August, and it will be interesting to see what the party thinks of Mr. Layton’s performance of late. I don’t expect him to do too poorly, but it will be hard to live up to a 92%.

So until then, here’s some NDP pizazz.