When news broke this afternoon that Jack Layton would be holding an afternoon press conference, hearts dropped across the country. Not a word had been said, but we could all imagine that this presser could only bring bad news.
Ever brave and optimistic, an obviously gaunt Layton explained that he would be stepping aside, temporarily, as leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. His cancer was back in a new form. Layton’s speech was eloquent, honest and humbling [read it here]. This sort of announcement could have been disastrous for a newly-emboldened party like the NDP. Instead, the strong personality and leadership Layton showed during the recent election campaign prevailed as he promised to be back in the house on September 19 and made a personal recommendation for an interim leader. Without an ounce of self-defeat, Layton’s optimistic response to his latest health challenge ensured morale within the party would stay as high as possible. If history is at all telling, Jack will be back.
What impressed me most once Layton had left the stage was not the careful media-trained responses from NDP officials, but how the usual partisan suspects responded to the news. My consistently divided, partisan and argumentative group of Queen’s University politics friends flooded my Facebook and Twitter feed with notes of strength, courage and dismay. Journalists of all stripes responded with sympathy. Party leaders, MPs and MPPs alike expressed their best wishes for a speedy recovery. In the face of one of their own fighting the fight of his life, politicos united across party lines in support.
He proved it during the last election, and I have no doubt he’ll prove it again.
Jack’s a winner and a fighter.