03/12/2012 03:50 EDT | Updated 05/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Thomas Mulcair's Identity Crisis

In the latest NDP leadership debate, serious divides were evident and some of the internal tensions between candidates started to show.

Thomas Mulcair as the perceived front-runner was the target of a number of barbs thrown his way, all of which imply he isn't a true believer in the NDP. The question now becomes where do the candidates go from here if Mulcair wins?

Brian Topp charged that Mulcair would take the NDP "backwards into a divisive and distracting debate about ourselves." If Mulcair wins, will Topp fight him every step of the way, in effect creating the divisions that he is forecasting?

Paul Dewar questioned Mulcair's ability to win an election when Dewar tried to convince party members that Mulcair was down on the party as it presently stands and questioned how Mulcair could "inspire people to vote for our party when you don't seem to be inspired by our party."

Will Dewar stay in caucus with an uninspiring leader who he feels can't win? Will he join Topp in fighting a rear guard action to oppose Mulcair's leadership in an attempt to preserve the values of the NDP as they see them? Or does Dewar resign?

At the very least this means that there are two senior NDP members and leadership contenders who disagree strongly with Mulcair's position that the party has to change and modernize. How they react to a Mulcair victory will have an impact on the future direction of the party and on Mulcair's chance for electoral success.

In addition, if Mulcair doesn't control the party apparatus he will be pressed on a number of sides and could find himself in the divisive situation Topp is predicting. If he moves to put his supporters into key party positions he will also risk creating a backlash. All in all, some interesting times ahead for the NDP if Mulcair wins.

Questioning Mulcair's NDP credentials makes for an interesting attack point in a debate, but what happens if your pseudo NDPer wins? Perhaps Nathan Cullen had it right when he said that the notion that "some New Democrats are good New Democrats and others need to pass some kind of test is offensive to me. I think it's wedge politics, only done within the family -- I reject any offensive notion that there be some loyalty test."

Perhaps the real loyalty test will come if Mulcair is declared the winner.