Generally speaking, losing an election sucks. But losing an election as a political aide isn’t all that bad because you instantly become a former political aide, and therefore a shrewd, all-knowing expert on everything to do with politics, the thing you were so bad at that you were forcibly evicted from office by voters. Believe me: the people in the media who used to criticize you for being lousy at your job will now pay you to criticize your replacements for being lousy at their jobs.
So sometimes reporters will call and ask things like, “What makes a good speech?” And I tell them: it’s pretty much the talking. Without the talking, you’re not so much “giving a speech” as you’re “just kinda standing there” – which can be persuasive in its own way, especially if it’s raining and you’re holding a boom box over your head and cranking Peter Gabriel. But frankly that approach tends to be more effective with Ione Skye and less effective in front of world leaders (see Paul Martin’s disastrous “In Your Eyes: the Light, the Heat” address to the UN General Assembly).
Anyhoo, as a brilliant expert who will possess great wisdom about and insight into politics until the moment I re-enter it, I hereby supply, free of charge, the full text of Michael Ignatieff’s acceptance speech to be delivered to the Liberal caucus. I assume his eyebrows will be going off the cuff.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
I knew I was right to come back to this two-bit northern backwater!
[Pause for gales of sustained laughter.]
Let me start by embracing the spirit that has always dominated Liberal leadership contests and saying in all sincerity to Dominic LeBlanc and Bob Rae: In your face, losers!
And now, let the healing begin.
Ladies and gentlemen: I would be remiss if I didn’t say a kind word about Stephane Dion.
[Long, awkward pause.]
My fellow Liberals: It’s been a long road to this day. Our 2006 leadership race lasted longer than all pregnancies and most civilizations. But there was an upside: I had the chance to meet Canadians – all of them. Some of them smelled pretty. Others had soft hands. Ours is truly a rich and varied populace.
We’ve been out of office for almost three years now. Some of you are getting the shakes pretty bad. But if we are to return to power, we are going to have to be true to the principle that has long defined this party: doing anything to return to power.
Over the years, the Liberal party has given Canada so much. Medicare, the Charter of Rights, a global reputation for peacekeeping. Empty promises, ethical malaise, Alfonso Gagliano. What I’m saying is that it’s all pretty much balanced out.
Today, we find ourselves in time of crisis. There’s a political crisis. There’s an economic crisis. So far the Yeti haven’t come down from the hills to feast upon the people of our towns, but let’s be honest: these things do usually happen in threes.
So we must dedicate ourselves to moving Canada forward. At the very least, we need to give it a good nudge sideways – because nudging it sideways doesn’t take as much effort yet still gives the sensation of movement, thereby tricking people.
As I venture forth to fight for Canada and — if I read the terms of the coalition correctly — wash Jack Layton’s car, I will always be mindful that ours is the party of Laurier and Pearson and Trudeau and also Turner, I suppose, though for some reason his name doesn’t often come up. Tonight, we will leave this room a party united. But by the time you get to your cars some will be plotting to covertly undermine me. My point is this: you’re a bunch of jackals.
In conclusion, I want to invite Stephane Dion [long, awkward pause], Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc to join me at the front of the room for the obligatory display of the vanquished being forced to smile weakly, raise their arms in unison with the winner and dance uncomfortably to the driving backbeat of a rock classic that in all likelihood none of us has ever heard before.
Stephen Harper ends his speeches by saying, “God bless Canada.” But we are Liberals. We are too wary of fundamentalism to follow suit, but too determined to be everything to everyone to resist pandering to the faithful. So allow me to say the same words but in a different, mixed-up way that adequately clouds their meaning.
Good night. And Canada. Bless. God.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008