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Will Broadbent's bomb turn out to be a bust?

Illustration by Anthony Jenkins

Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

Ed Broadbent has gone nuclear on Thomas Mulcair. It is a strange thing to see one of the NDP's most respected senior statesman look to blow up the campaign of the apparent front-runner. Who knew the holier than thou NDP were capable of such primal political behaviour?

It is well known I am no fan of Mr. Mulcair but I didn't know Mr. Broadbent shared such a visceral view of the surly NDP member from Outremont. It is certainly well known in Ottawa that Mulcair prefers to scorch the earth rather than engage in the co-operative farming process his many colleagues prefer.

I honestly have no idea what impact Mr. Broadbent's sermon on the tomfoolery of taking Thomas to the top will have on NDP members as they vote for a new leader. But I know such extreme preaching often blows up on the preacher blowing past the congregation he is trying to sway.

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You need look no further than the Liberal Party's demonization of Stephen Harper as evidence the cry of the wolf is an empty shriek. The more the Liberals tried to scare people about Harper the lower the expectations became for him with the public while his bellowing opponents looked desperate and inept. Now Ed Broadbent has much more credibility than the Liberal gang that ran those plays on Harper – but it is all a matter of degrees, particularly in leadership races.

It is quite possible that Broadbent has done Mulcair a huge favour by going after him. Some may view Broadbent's broadside as a desperation exercise launched for his candidate of choice, Brian Topp. As opposed to the message that the NDP's future and unity is threatened by Mulcair, it may come across as Team Topp not playing fair. Topp may pay among NDP members for Broadbent's blast. It could burst Topp's balloon, not Mulcair's.

Mr. Broadbent has also done the external opponents of the NDP a favor if Mulcair wins. Given the regard in which he is held by many across the country, I am sure he won't be surprised if Tories and Liberals alike borrow his bromides for critiquing Mulcair should he become leader of the Official Opposition. Never mind the tape of Michael Ignatieff chastising Stéphane Dion for his inability to make decisions and that infamous line from Dion: "It is not easy to make priorities." This could be much better.

Will Mr. Broadbent's bomb have the kaboom effect he seeks or will it be a bust? We'll know next weekend.

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