Or will the â€œgood guysâ€ win this time?
Canadians go to the polls next week in an election that has echoes of the British General Election in May â€“ the most intriguing being the involvement of Lynton Crosby.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper hopes the Australian can repeat what he did for David Cameron — magic an outright victory in an election where the Tory poll numbers have been limping along in the low thirties.
That was how the final polls looked in Britain. The Tories famously confounded the pollsters by taking 37% of the vote on May 7th but Cameronâ€™s overall majority owed more to the Crosbyâ€™s ruthless targeting of marginal Labour and Lib Dem seats. The way it was done was gloatingly chronicled in Conservative Home.
The Canadian Tories are doing even worse than their British counterparts. Thereâ€™s dire news for Harper in the latest tracker polling which has him trailing the Liberal Justin Trudeau by seven points. Labourâ€™s sister party the NDP is in the mid 20s and could hold the balance of power.
The NDP, whose leader Tom Mulcair sports a Corbynesque beard, have been the official opposition since 2011 when they made sweeping gains from the Liberals and from the Bloc Quebecois. They have slipped back into third place â€“ the main casualties of Harper playing the Islamaphobia card. The Tory campaign has put the migrant crisis and the case of a Muslim woman who insists on her right to wear the niqab veil at the centre of their campaigning.
According to the Guardian, Harperâ€™s success with anti-Muslim politics dates from Crosbyâ€™s arrival. â€œHis presence in Canada first became apparent during a debate in which Harper appealed for the votes of what he called â€œold-stock Canadiansâ€ â€“ a novel phrase that struck a deliberately discordant note in the typically inclusive chorus of Canadian multiculturalism.â€
Itâ€™s an example of Crosbyâ€™s â€œdead cat strategyâ€, according to Macleans. If you are losing an argument, as Harper is over the economy, you throw a dead cat on the table â€“ an eye catching emotional issue that grabs voters attention. Everyone starts talking about the cat and forgets the main issue.
A Globe and Mail commentator suggests Harper didnâ€™t need much prompting to exploit Islamophobia. Whether or not it was prompted by Crosby, the Islamophobia tactic could backfire. If he fails to get an overall majority
Harper could be a dead duck by the middle of next week.
He has driven together his main rivals. Relations between them have often been cool but Mulcair says removing Harper is his top priority and he would be ready to support Trudeau as Prime Minister.
For anyone who finds the use of the race card distasteful this would count as a victory for the good guys
Immigration and race never seem to be far from the Crosby mind when it comes to campaigning. His entry into British politics came in 2005 when under Michael Howardâ€™s leadership the Tories ran posters asking “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” followed up with : “It’s not racist to impose limits on immigration.” . The Guardianâ€™s Nick Watt explained that Crosby was importing an approach that had worked in his native land.
Now, according to the Mail, he is warning David Cameron that the migrant issue could cost the Tories the election in 2020.
But the next big electoral test comes next May and it will be interesting to see what role Crosby plays in the London. He helped get Boris Johnson elected Mayor in 2008 by virtually gagging the flamboyant, gaffe-prone candidate.
Zac Goldsmith will be a harder sell. For all his wealth and good looks he is short on charisma. In the recent PB podcast the Telegraphâ€™s Asa Bennett judged his Tory conference â€œunderwhelmingâ€.
London is a famously diverse city and Labourâ€™s candidate Sadiq Khan is, of course, a Muslim. If Goldsmithâ€™s campaign falters look out for the Tories to throw that dead cat on to the table.