Posts Tagged ‘Justin Trudeau’

Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in a Montreal Metro station Wednesday and took part in a random act of kindness when a person with a disability was having difficulties because of a broken down escalator.

trudeau

 

Like everything he has done so far, very classy. Note, this is not a semi-official “photo op”. The snap was taken by a passer by and posted on Twitter.

Americans are apparently so impressed with Trudeau’s leadership of his country that many are begging him to come South and run for President. Apart from that being a legal impossibility, we strongly suspect he’d have more sense.

And Liberals in the UK, still smarting from electoral near-destruction, view him as something akin to a Messiah. Especially as he took his party from third to winning a majority in one leap. A move is afoot to get him to address their autumn conference in Brighton later in the year.

Good looking, charismatic, humble, compassionate, well-educated. Little wonder women in particular find his allure almost irresistible. This is the man, remember, who almost single-handedly re-set the public debate about countries taking in Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict, and just last week spontaneously explained quantum computing to a smart-arse journalist.

His father was a remarkable man. It looks like the son is even more so.

 

We are spending a lot more time than usual thinking about Dr Who in the Wellthisiswhatithink household.

Robert Lloyd and a Tardis made entirely of Lego. It's a long story.

Robert Lloyd and a Tardis made entirely of Lego. It’s a long story.

This is primarily because we have become friendly with a great guy who is deeply obsessed with the series and its history – Robert Lloyd.

And not least because he bears an uncanny resemblance to the tenth doctor, David Tennant, which allows the clever chap to make at least a partial living attending fan conferences as a lookalike host, not to mention producing his own very touching and funny Dr Who shows in Australia and overseas.

“Wait … what?”

Indeed, we are thinking of tracking down the real Mr Tennant simply so we can go up to him and ask “Aren’t you Robert Lloyd?”, because that’s the sort of silly joke that appeals to your indefatigable correspondent when the painkillers for our sore shoulder really kick in, and should you happen to run across the hugely talented Scots actor, Dear Reader, we urge you to do the same.

Anyhow, as we are breathlessly making our way through the new series of Doctor Who hiding behind the couch and peeping out occasionally, we have become inevitably more involved in all things Whovian, which is how we came to read fellow scriber Lee Zachariah’s review of the last episode.

It would be a shame to allow the episode to pass unremarked, as it carried a strong – some would say visceral – anti-war message, delivered by the Doctor to the leaders of the Zygon rebellion and Earth’s “Unit”. (Regular viewers will know what we are on about.) The speech is making news in the Twitter-blogo-internety-sphere thing, and rightly so.

soldierThe interesting thing is that this seminal solliloqy was timed to coincide, in the UK, with Remembrance Sunday, which we wrote about yesterday.

Lee’s review, which is well worth a read, contains this trenchant paragraph.

the Doctor delivered a more-than-ten-minute speech (go back and time it if you don’t believe me) about the pointlessness and devastation of war. It’s a sentiment we’ve heard many times before, but not like this. Peter Capaldi delivers the tremendous mostly-monologue brilliantly, and it never ditches the story for the metaphor, or vice-versa.

Which is a good point, well made, in two wises.

Firstly, it would be hard to imagine any television programme – especially one that is “popular” in the sense that it has a hugely wide and generally low-brow demographic appeal – dedicated Whovians will object to that characterisation, but fair play, you aficionados, it is prime time entertainment, you know, not the answer to life, the Universe and everything – that can weave in a ten minute speech to its script on, you know, anything, let alone a passionate and carefully constructed pacifist argument.

We were reminded of the famous attack on the current level of mindless jingoism in America by Jeff Daniels when he was playing news anchor Will McEvoy in the consistently excellent Newsroom, which was cancelled after just three short seasons (disgracefully) and which included one of the finest soliloquies ever delivered in the modern era.

It has been seen literally millions of times, and is constantly being referenced in social media. We would honestly be delighted if it was seen at least once by every American citizen. It’s also a mesmerising performance by Daniels. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and watch it now.

 

The second point to be made is that the speech in this weekend’s episode of Who absolutely required an actor of the staggering intensity and compassion of Peter Capaldi, the latest (and we hope long-lasting) iteration of the Doctor, both to deliver such a speech with any degree of conviction, and to hold the audience’s attention while he does.

Capaldi’s take on Who is a refreshing change from the whimsical boy-child performances of Matt Smith – he is argumentative, sometimes intolerant, excoriatingly witty, and less human.

Just as Smith emphasised the light-hearted whimsicality of a Time Lord who knows everything and nothing – but who exhibited a fine and moving line in pathos, too – and was perfectly balanced by the bubbly effusion of Karen Gillan – so Capaldi is a conviction Who for a modern era. An era that insistently offers us imminent climate change, dozens of very nasty global conflicts, an apparently unstoppable arms trade, a renewed nuclear arms race, newly intense superpower tensions, the horrors of IS and 4 million Syrian refugees.

Capaldi’s version of Who is perfectly nuanced for today. Just as his soon-to-depart companion Jenna Coleman has had a questioning demeanor and fiery temper and is thus appropriately and winningly less likely to fall for standard Time Lord snake oil shlock.

Anyway, back to the speech itself. As Capaldi fixes us with his near-manic gaze, we are commanded to listen carefully, which in turns allows the writers to try and do something serious with all that transfixed attention.

Talking to the Zygon rebel leader who is threatening to destroy humanity, Capaldi rages:

“The only way anyone can live in peace, is if they’re prepared to forgive. And when this was is over, when you have a homeland free from humans, what do think it’s going to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you given it any consideration? Because you’re very close to getting what you want.

“What’s it going to be like? Paint me a picture. Are you going to live in houses? Do you want people to go to work? Will there be holidays? Oh! Will there be music? Do you think peole will be allowed to play violins?”

“Well … oh you don’t actually know do you? Because, like every other tantrumming child in history, you don’t actually know what you want.”

“So let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you’ve killed all the bad guys, and when it’s all perfect, and just and fair, and when you have finally got it, exactly they way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The trouble makers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?

Well maybe you will win. But nobody wins for long. The wheel just keeps turning. So, come on. Break the cycle.”

As he hammers home his points, Capaldi traverses an astonishing range of emotion and meaning in the speech – anger, sarcasm, pleading, fear, intellectual superiority, terror, far-sightedness, urgency.

“Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you don’t know who’s going to die. You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken. How many lives shattered. How much blood will spill until everyone does what they were always going to do from the very beginning. SIT … DOWN … AND … TALK.”

Please. Watch it.

 

Amen.

This cultural memorandum is for the attention of David Cameron, Barack Obama, Francois Hollande, Vladimir Putin, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Bashar al-Assad, Hassan Rouhani, Benjamin Netanyahu, Malcolm Turnbull, Jean-Claude Juncker, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Ban Ki-moon, Pope Francis, Xi Jinping, Abubakar Shekau, Idriss Deby, Muhammadu Buhari, Shinzō Abe, Justin Trudeau …

justin trudeau

 

While the scale of the Liberal victory in Canada is as yet unknown, the fact of the win itself makes history, making this “only the second time in Canada’s history that a party has gone from third place in Parliament to first,” as noted by the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher.

The official election gives Liberals a commanding majority of Parliaments 338 seats. Currently it looks like this:

  • Liberals: 127 elected, leading in 186 ridings, 41.5% of the vote
  • Conservatives: 72 elected, leading in 108 ridings, 31.8% of the vote
  • NDP: 14 elected, leading in 33 ridings, 18.4% of the vote
  • Bloc Quebecois: three elected, leading in 10 ridings, 4.6% of the vote

Born while his father Pierre was prime minister, Canada’s new leader Justin Trudeau has taken a circuitous route to power

Just a few months ago, Justin Trudeau was an unlikely contender to be Canada’s next prime minister. Running third in the polls, behind incumbent Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and the resurgent left wing New Democratic party, Trudeau – son of legendary prime minister Pierre Trudeau – was slated as too young (he is 43) and too inexperienced to haul his beleaguered Liberal party out of the electoral mess of the 2011 general election.

That result saw the Liberal party – once the dominant force in Canadian politics – slump to third place for the first time in its history, its worst ever showing with just 34 seats. At that point, Trudeau brushed off expectations that he would succeed outgoing Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, saying: “Because of the history packaged into my name, a lot of people are turning to me in a way that … to be blunt, concerns me.”

His family – he has three young children aged eight and under with his wife Sophie Grégoire – was also cited as a reason not to put himself forward. But by 2012, with other contenders falling by the wayside, the spotlight swung once again to Trudeau, and in October of that year he launched his bid with a rally in Montreal.

His victory in April 2013 was almost embarrassingly comprehensive: he took over the Liberal party with 80.1% of the vote. The national polls – initially, at least – surged in his favour.

But the path to government proved rather rockier. Progressive voters were tempted by Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats, while Harper’s unpopular Conservative government took heart from the surprise victory – attributed to “shy Tories” – of David Cameron’s party in the UK elections in May.

Trudeau’s appeal to the centre ground risked losing out to both its neighbours.

So what changed? Harper’s tactics, referring to his challenger condescendingly as “Justin” and campaign ads that poked fun at his “nice hair”, found no grip among a section of the electorate that wanted the Conservatives out at all costs because they were simply tired of them, and increasingly saw Trudeau as the best chance of achieving that. Conservative mean-mindedness also saw the Conservatives look out of touch on the world refugee crisis in major urban areas where there were large numbers of recent immigrants.

The long election campaign – the longest, in fact, since 1872, at 78 days – gave the Liberals the time to build on that boost. Trudeau told the Guardian in July that he relished it: “If there’s one thing that recent history in Canada has shown it’s that campaigns really matter. And there’s a tremendous volatility among voters who are just looking for the right alternative.”

Trudeau, for all his dynastic connections that he himself appeared to mistrust, aimed to be that alternative. Almost literally born to the role of prime minister – he was born in 1975, during his father’s second term – he took a circuitous route into political life, trying his hand at teaching, engineering, bungee-jumping coaching, environmental geography, charity boxing and acting, before ousting Bloc Québécois MP Vivian Barbot to become MP for Papineau in the 2008 general election.

trudeau_margaret

Like Jack Kennedy before him, Pierre Trudeau was as famous for his glamorous and headline-grabbing wife Margaret as he was for his own wit and wisdom.

In 2000, at his father’s state funeral, Trudeau delivered a eulogy that stoked whispers of a dynasty that has, indeed, now secured its place in Canadian history: “More than anything, to me, he was dad. And what a dad. He loved us with the passion and the devotion that encompassed his life. He taught us to believe in ourselves, to stand up for ourselves, to know ourselves and to accept responsibility for ourselves.

We knew we were the luckiest kids in the world. And we had done nothing to actually deserve it. It was instead something that we would have to spend the rest of our lives to work very hard to live up to.”

And now, in terms of winning an election, at least, the son has indeed lived up to his illustrious father.

Meanwhile defeated Prime Minister Steven Harper will be treated kindly by history, having proved a stable hand on the tiller for a long period, and having “saved the deck chairs on the Titanic” with a creditable result even in defeat. Clearly there weren’t as many “shy Tories” in Canada as in the UK last May. Long-term incumbency has once again been shown to be a mixed blessing for Governments seeking re-election, especially when the same leadership is presenting itself for re-endorsement. The Conservative Party in the UK, currently riding high in the polls, would do well to pay attention. The result will also buoy those Small-l and Big-l liberals in the UK and Europe who have seen their brand of radical centrism fall out of favour recently.

Clearly the one defining factor in all Western democratic politics is now “volatility”, for good or bad.

Further reading: Five things that will be different in a Trudeau government

(Guardian and our own commentary)