Progressive Futures

Sunny ways: learning from success and failure in Canada

3 August 2016

Labour, the Liberals and the NDP

Jon Ashworth

At a time when progressive politics appears to be on the back foot, Canada has proved the exception to the rule: Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party delivered a new government last year, elected on a bold progressive platform for ‘real change’ which oozed confidence and positivity.

This paper draws on Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth’s recent conversations with an array of Canadian counterparts. It asks what can be learned from the Liberals’ successful campaign, as well as contemplating the ill-fated efforts of Labour’s sister party, the NDP.

From persuading switchers, to dealing with a separatist threat, and from mobilising new segments of the electorate, to deploying better use of ‘big data’ – it is clear that there is a lot to learn from the Liberal campaign. This paper considers how these lessons should inform the policy platform, strategy and positioning of the UK Labour party and other social democrats across Europe.

To stand any chance of emulating the Canadian Liberals’ success, Ashworth concludes that Labour must urgently engage in a thorough, deep and sustained debate about the party’s future.

Photo credit: LiuSol /