The legacy of New Labour in Britain is not one of complete failure, but it is very mixed. Specifically, it was disappointing to see a Labour government look to market-based solutions in health care almost as a panacea; it was shocking to see Blair follow Bush into Iraq with an alacrity that pleased Mrs. Thatcher. Meaningful politics needs a clear adversary (besides terrorism); that adversary for any social democratic party has to be a corporate capitalism that asserts a perfect identity of interests with the wider society even as its pathological pursuit of profit and power fouls the ocean and melts the poles. The NDP must not abandon its role as the representative of the underdogs in corporate-societal relations.
The second, political change that is needed is a greater willingness to cooperate with other parties and groups outside of the NDP’s core constituency. Since the NDP is already committed to coalition–building by virtue of its support for proportional representation, one would expect this to not be a problem. But it is. Before Green Party leader Elizabeth May forged her agreement with Stephane Dion in 2008 to not run opposing candidates in each other’s riding, she was rumoured to have approached Jack Layton , but was rebuffed. In the coming election, it would be reasonable for the NDP to ask a dozen vote-splitting Green Party candidates to step down in exchange for giving May a clear run at Gary Lunn in the constituency of Saanich-Gulf Islands, but that won’t happen either.
Another example illustrates the need for both of these improvements. Paul Summerville, the former chief economist for RBC Dominion Securities who in 2006 ran for the NDP in the Toronto riding of St. Paul's, later left the party for the Liberals, complaining that the leadership would not counter the strong "anti-market rhetoric" coming from the party’s grassroots. He had a good point. Recognizing the most egregious instances of market failure, such as the private health insurance trap and deregulated financial markets in the United States, or the burgeoning crisis of global warming, need not mean blinding ourselves to the value of markets as the principal means of everyday economic coordination for ordinary Canadians, or ignoring the value of international trade as the key to our standard of living. A sophisticated appreciation of markets and the limitations of government is an appropriate starting point for better public policy, even if it should not be allowed to become the ultimate arbiter. It is also the basis for rapprochement with greens and progressive liberals—something that will be necessary in any case, should the NDP hope to be part of a governing coalition in the future.