I have frequently suggested in this space that the greatest impediment to a majority Liberal Government in the short term is chief Grit, Michael Ignatieff. His obvious challenge to becoming the next prime minister is his lack of “Canadian-ness.” Canadian-ness is something that we acquire over time, and something that cannot be acquired long-distance.
Mr. Ignatieff is, no doubt, a Canadian in any legal sense, but not in the de facto sense. One cannot spend almost all of one’s adult life living and working abroad and re-acquire a true Canadian identity of any significant depth in five years—it just cannot be done, at least, not to the degree required to understand Canadians sufficiently to become their prime minister.
And Canadians seem to understand this viscerally, though Liberal insiders apparently do not. Either that or they arrogantly believe they can sell anything they choose to Canadian voters.
In the year or so after Mr. Ignatieff was appointed leader of the Grits, however, I have realized that there are clear indications that he just does not have the right stuff to be a political leader, never mind not having a sufficient understanding of Canadians. Yes, he has acquired some political maturity and poise—he showed that during interviews about the recent throne speech. But his internship has taken so long, he has allowed himself to become an object of derision.
Politics hates a vacuum. It is well known that an aspiring political leader must quickly and convincingly define himself in terms that voters will find attractive and worthy of their confidence. If one fails to do so, others will fill the vacuum and define one in negative terms. And once that image sticks, it’s awfully hard to dispel. Like Stéphane Dion before him, Mr. Ignatieff has allowed the conservatives and the media at large to define him in uncomplimentary terms that resulted in his nickname, Iffy.
All politicians take flack from supporters of the parties they oppose—that’s just part of the political game. But when a politician takes friendly fire, its probably time to quit the game.
And friendly fire is just what Mr. Ignatieff is taking these days. Reports persist that several members of his caucus have lost confidence in their leader. Even one of the Liberal Party of Canada’s most avid media supporters is taking pot-shots, and very mean ones they are at that. The latest example can be seen here.
Mr. Ignatieff need not ask for whom the bell tolls.
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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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