UPDATED: Topp Regrets

September 20th, 2013

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[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

The post-mortem of the BC NDP provincial election campaign written by campaign director Brian Topp has now made its way into the hands of the Vancouver Sun, where it's also been analyzed by veteran political watcher Vaughn Palmer.

The complete report is a worthwhile document to read for politicos, journalists, political scientists and other students of the complex business of assembling a provincial election campaign.

Here is the final version in its entirety (opens PDF).

UPDATE: The earlier version from June is now available on Scribd: http://www.scribd.com/doc/169854050/B-C-NDP-Campaign-Post-mortem-June-18-2013

FURTHER UPDATE: When looking for something else, I found the video of the BC Leader's Debate for htis election campaign. The Dix opening statement that was supposed to have been so costly starts at 2:00: http://cpac.ca/eng/videos/86099

8 Responses to “UPDATED: Topp Regrets”

  1. Susan Riley says:

    Fascinating and very well-written. Topp, perhaps, underestimates how wooden and unappealing Dix was in the televised debate _ especially to voters unfamiliar with him. By contrast, Clark was charming, warm, friendly and simple to understand. She is a superb communicator; Dix just looked like a generic pol.

  2. Ron says:

    A brutally frank analysis – and a timely lesson for the NDP 2015 federal campaign.

    Topp’s policy and campaign analytical and writing skills are impressive.

  3. Holy whoa, is that man ever brilliant.

  4. It’s a well-thought-out piece, but from my perspective (a somewhat radical one) it seems a little too surface. What he says is true as far as it goes, and it does glance at what I see as the more powerful issues, but I feel it somehow doesn’t do them justice, treats them tactically rather than strategically.

    I agree that the emphasis on going entirely positive when you have an opponent with a terrible record you could stomp all over was a fundamental mistake. But corresponding to that, (to be fair this is mentioned but only as a “this campaign, this moment” tactical issue) is the problem with the positive campaign. The NDP is increasingly reaching a point where it stands for very little. Its general rhetoric about standing up for the little guy, and the intellectual understanding that even many NDP politicians do have that austerity and neoliberalism are a terrible idea, do not seem of late to translate into policies which will have a noticeable impact on the economy or voters’ pocketbooks.
    And so you have Adrian Dix running a positive campaign, except with very little to be positive about. Incremental improvements here and there, a little money for training budgets. No job creation, no dramatic cuts to student fees, no pharmacare, no public dental insurance, no daycare a la Quebec, no major green energy and employment package. Campaign on things that will make an impact, major services or crushing the unemployment rate or both. He was like Seinfeld out there, running a positive campaign about nothing.

    My point isn’t that leftist policies are good, although of course I think they are. The point is, if you’re going to be the NDP and pay the price of automatically being considered scary and socialist and all that, you might as well also gain the benefit that you’re proposing real policy that people can say “Hey, I could use that!”
    This also has the side benefit that it makes a negative campaign easier and less personal–if your policies are clearly different, you can attack your opponent’s contrasting policies: “Christy Clark claims her courting of liquid natural gas will create jobs, but independent studies say there will only be X jobs. My policy is to directly create 100X jobs, enough to really get the province going. 100X jobs or only X jobs, it’s your choice.”

    The thing is, this has become a general problem for the NDP, not just in Dix’s campaign but in many provinces and many elections; Dix’s predecessor Carole James had the same trouble (and the same trouble of wanting to be nice and collegial instead of putting the boot in where it hurt). And while Thomas Mulcair is not afraid to go negative when it’s needed, he too suffers from a lack of strong positive vision.

    It comes down to fear. The NDP fears the media pressure, that any positive proposal will be greeted as proof positive the NDP are socialist loonies and that will be the message in all the papers and plastered across the TV screens. But the problem is, backing down never eliminates that pressure. The “Overton Window” never stops creeping away for as long as we let it. Even the tiniest policy difference from the Liberals will continue to be evidence of the foolish danger of the NDP. Almost giving in is the worst of both worlds–you still can be tarred as dangerous, but you have nothing to counter with in terms of policy that could inspire or real sense that your party is different and not just a bunch of hacks. The NDP has been insisting on systematically inhabiting this worst of both worlds.

  5. Norman Spector says:

    Agree with Susan Riley re Dix in TV debate

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