‘I’m not sure how much people know about what he’s gone on to do’

by Aaron Wherry

Elizabeth Renzetti sketches Michael Ignatieff’s return to England this week.

Not many of Mr. Ignatieff’s former London associates would have pictured him on a podium, engaged in partisan debate. “I don’t think anyone foresaw him strutting across the stage of international politics,” said Mr. Loader, who was one of the creators, 20 years ago, of the BBC’s live culture program The Late Show . He hired Mr. Ignatieff as one of the four hosts, and the former academic quickly “became the good-looking intellectual one. He was quite well-known, he had a reputation as something of a cultural polymath.”




Browse

‘I’m not sure how much people know about what he’s gone on to do’

  1. From the article:

    Michael Ignatieff lived in Britain for more than 20 years…and earned the dubious honour of being “the thinking woman's crumpet.”

    The more I think of this guy, the more I think that the last thing, the last thing Canada needs at this moment is a dilettante. (Not that there is ever a good time for one.)

    What on earth possessed the Liberals to forego their leadership convention and place the Party in this politcal neophyte's hands?

    • I think a big reason they passed on the leadership convention was to save the money. I go back to Tom Flanagan's article in the Globe a few months ago, where he described the "war of attrition" being waged by the Cons on the Libs.

      And, obviously, the less money the Libs have, the more compromised they are in any big decisions they might make.
      Iggy's backtrack over EI-360 was attributed in part to the fact almost all Lib MPs hadn't gotten their rebate from Elections Canada.

      All things considered, I think they made the right decision in forgoing the leadership race. My reasoning is this:
      Their campaign narrative will boil down to: "It's time to throw the bums out. Libs are better at governing" (what else have they got ?). For this narrative to resonate with voters, it is absolutely imperative that the Libs run a tight campaign. If they come out stumbling and bumbling (as when Dion didn't have a plane for the first week), then they look ridiculous, and subject to enormous ridicule–"If they can't run a campaign, how can they run the country?" replaces their preferred narrative.

      • "All things considered, I think they made the right decision in forgoing the leadership race."

        You're right if Ignatieff was the right choice, but wrong if he wasn't. I think the Liberals were right in foregoing precipitating an election last month but I'm coming to the view that Ignatieff is not the man that will revive the Liberal Party's flagging fortunes. In other words, I'm coming to the conclusion that Ignatieff was the wrong choice.

        Your reasoning for choosing Iggy is fine as far as short term tactics go, but surely short term tactics shouldn't be a basis or a priority in choosing a leader. The Liberals are dependent on their leader for policy directions more than the Conservatives or the NDP as these parties tend to have more directing political principles. I look at Iggy's speech in London posted earlier this week by Aaron and the sense I get is the guy doesn't have any idea what he wants to do as Prime Minister nor does he talks like he wants to be Prime Minister.

    • Still adorable, sweetie!

    • Sorry, jarrid, but that dilettante thing juuuuuust won't fly.

  2. Anyone surprised at Jarrid's response? Na, didn't think so.

  3. I reflected earlier this week on Aaron's blog post on Iggy's London speech at the Isaiah Berlin Society that it looked like Iggy didn't seem to know if he was "more interested in being an academic bystander than actually rolling up his sleaves and entering the political fray".

    William Christian, who wrote a national best-selling biography on Iggy's uncle George Grant, has noted much the same trait in Iggy. Commenting on his blog "Primary Loyalties" he wrote that:

    "However, he still looks self-conscious. When he delivered his first speech as leader of the Liberal party, I had the feeling that he was standing in front of a highly partisan Liberal crowd doing and saying the things that he, as an academic, thought that the leader of the Liberal party should do and say."

  4. I will add one more thing here.

    Michael Ignatieff delivered an important speech this week in London entitled "Liberal Values in Tough Times". It is a lengthy speech. It was posted in its entirety by Aaron Wednesday afternoon on this blog. Aaron had no comment. Kady had no comment. Paul Wells had no comment. Partisan Liberal or left/lib commenters who frequent this blog had virtually no comment on it. The only one who had anything to say, Wascally Wabbit, expressed some misgivings.

    Major speech by Iggy. Crickets chirp. What's with that?

    • I agree that it is odd that many in the msm ignored Iggy's speech but I thought Colby Cosh wrote a good article about it yesterday. Cosh concluded it was typical of what we come to expect of Iggy: lots of 'on one hand, but on the other ….. '

      • "lots of 'on one hand, but on the other ….. ' "

        That's what I noticed too. It was more of the usual "nuanced" approach that Liberals like to take on just about every policy. From what I've seen so far of Iggy, I think Lib partisans should give up any hope of getting any really meaty, specific, policy-wonky stuff (ala the Greenshift) from Iggy. He's more of a "big ideas" kind of guy.

        So on top of the "but's", "however's", "on the other hand's" in his speeches, we will hear about "east-west electricity grids" and the like. I just CANNOT picture him coming out with something like: "we will raise the GST by 2 %, and use the money to fund Universal Day Care".

    • Actually Jarrid, I did comment when Aaron originally posted the speech. I said at the time that I didn't know what the delivery would be like but I found the text pretty good.

      Speaking of crickets chirping however, I do not recall you posting anything when Steve shot from the lip at the end of the G8 and then had to apologise.

    • Kady here — sorry, for some reason, I can't log into Intense Debate from Chrome. Anyway, I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I just didn't find it terribly interesting. It wasn't particularly bad, it wasn't particularly good, it was just — there.

      • "It wasn't particularly bad, it wasn't particularly good, it was just — there."

        The fact that Iggy did a major speech, again entitled "Liberal Values in Tough Times" and it's "just there" as you describe it is something that warrants commentary. We're talking about the man who would be Prime Minister after all. This major speech just made our collective eyes glaze over.

        • Again, speaking just for me, I don't really tend to comment on speeches by politicians unless they say something that, to me, is noteworthy enough to highlight. That's true for pretty much all the current federal leaders — and to be honest, most of them make my eyes glaze over, because I find you learn a lot more from spontaneous – or at least extemporaneous – remarks than a speech, which, by its very nature, is scripted.

    • I commented on it, Jarrid. I thought the speech was great.

      • You did indeed Jenn, that's why I added the word "virtually". CAPS also said something as he mentions above. You guys didn't say a heck of a lot though. Here's what you all said:

        CAPS – "Don't know what the delivery was like but it sure reads well."

        Sophia Geffros – "That was a very well written speech. *I* found it inspiring, at least." to which you Jenn added "Agreed. Or ditto."

        Andrew (Not P or C) made a comment on an insignificant point and catherine ignored the speech and attacked Harper. Cribqueen said the speech was well-written. That's it folks.

        If Trudeau had made a major speech in those circumstances we'd all have been talking about it for days. And we'd have been discussing the content of it, the ideas being put forward etc…

  5. Was going to post something insightful, but after reading Jarrid's ignorant drivel, I have become, yet again, despondent over the state of public ignorance.

    Ah, what the heck. This (from The Globe):

    "“I don't think too many people here care about Canadian politics.”

    Don't ever change, Brits.

    • "Was going to post something insightful"

      Please enlighten us, the ignorant masses surely do need some educatin' from a Lib partisan because we really don't get enough of the condescending and arrogant attitude of libs who think they are better than everyone else.

      • "because we really don't get enough of the condescending and arrogant attitude"

        And that's the thanks we get for being so indulgent?

        A tossed salad couldn't help looking arrogant alongside Jarrid and wingnuts.

        • "And that's the thanks we get for being so indulgent? "

          Is this a serious response or a joke? If serious, are we supposed to bow and scrape before the magnificence that is Anon whenever you deign to post a comment here.

          • Do whatever you want. Maybe even risk saying something sensible for once.

  6. Fact is Brits don't give a tinker's damn about Canada or its politics.

    They are more concerned with the US.

    • "A few weeks ago an extraordinary meeting took place that could determine the future of public spending in this country. The venue was a white stuccoed house in Carlton Gardens. The chairman was Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary. Under discussion was whether drastic cuts in expenditure — of up to 20 per cent — will be needed to tackle the spiralling deficit. In the room were senior officials from across Whitehall and Conservative frontbenchers — but not a single minister.

      The meeting was organised by the Institute for Government, a non-political body funded by Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Labour's biggest donor during the Blair years. It was considering the lessons to be learnt from the way Canada brought national debt under control. The two figures behind the Canadian cuts package were the speakers." Rachel Sylvester, The Times, July 7 2009

  7. "Fact is Brits don't give a tinker's damn about Canada or its politics. "

    I don't blame them entirely. The British elites still have the residual capacity to disagree with each other while having fun doing. It's entertaining to watch their politicians argue.

    Here, it's just dreary, coarse and juvenile. And the reactions are dull and preachy.

  8. Anon/Ti-G*y threatening to be insightful. What's gotta into him?

    A couple of Liberal partisan commenters Anon/Ti-G*y and Ontario Town come by, but like their other Liberal brethren, decide that they will withhold comment on Iggy's offering.

    I think I'll head off to Liblogs and do a bit of investigative reporting. There has to be someone somewhere in Liberaldom that is wading in on this. Will report back if I turn anything up.

    • "Liberalism will always be more difficult to explain and defend than the more simple-minded philosophies of neo-Conservatism and social democracy."

      JPro provided your answer, jarrid. Apparently woolly thinking is a sign of intelligence and people who don't change their opinions daily are simple-minded.

      • "Apparently woolly thinking is a sign of intelligence and people who don't change their opinions daily are simple-minded."

        Can you even read?

  9. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you've read the thing JPro, although I'd be hard-pressed to describe your cut and paste job as constituting commentary on the speech. Still, it's a start, of sorts.

    • How arriogant.

      • How Ti-G*yish.

  10. That's certainly not a description of classical liberalism, is it? And I'm not entirely sure that the liberal=generousity equation is well-founded; it looks a little like playing with words. Words often have two or more meanings (depending on context) that have little relation to each other, so one should perhaps be cautious about equating them simply because it suits ones arguement.

    • That's the origin right enough. IIRC the 18th and 19th C "liberals" were so describe because they were "generous" in their belief that political rights should be extended, first from the aristocracy and then from the propertied class.

    • That's the origin right enough. IIRC the 18th and 19th C "liberals" were so described because they were "generous" in their belief that political rights should be extended, first from the aristocracy and then from the propertied class.

      • Thanks, Jack. It's interesting that classical liberals were "generous" perhaps with respect to the extension of political rights, but less so with respect to economic rights. I read a book some time back about the extension of the voting franchise that suggested that the main impetus for it was not really "generousity", but rather to provide electoral support and validation for parties that wanted to change the status quo, but not necessarily in the interests of those for whom they advocated extending the franchise. In other words, a rather cynical attempt at grabbing the levers of power: some things never change!

        • Absolutely — extending the franchise without a secret ballot is like handing every industrialist 1000 votes! But I think there were also liberals who genuinely believed in the Rights of Man. Politics in general does seem to be about idealists and cynics getting in to bed together, each type impersonating the other, unconvincingly.

        • Absolutely — extending the franchise without a secret ballot is like handing every industrialist 1000 votes! But I think there were also liberals who genuinely believed in the Rights of Man. Politics in general does seem to be about idealists and cynics getting into bed together, each type impersonating the other, unconvincingly.

      • Not quite right. They were called "liberals" because they sought increased individual freedom from the state. The root was "liber" as in freedom, not as in generosity.

        Oddly enough "liberals" now refers to those who want individual freedoms returned to the state. This is why the term "leftists" is more accurate.

  11. Martin,

    No but it's an excellent description of reform liberalism.

  12. “You've got to watch where you go with this stuff. Are you saying that people who live outside the country are less good Canadians than people who have never left? I don't think so. Are you saying that Canadians born in another country are less good Canadians than people who were born here? I don't think so. You start with this stuff and it ends up not being about me, but about the national identity of our country, and who we call a Canadian.”

    There is a massive difference, which Mr. Ignatieff seems not to realize, between a person who is born elsewhere and chooses to live in Canada and become a citizen, and a person who is born here and chooses to leave and spend his life elsewhere until he sees a politically convenient opening.

    I doubt any Canadian would think it strange for the US to elect Obama, who lived several years in Indonesia as a child. It would be something very different, and strange for any nation, if he had resided in Indonesia or Kenya until 2005 and still won the election.

  13. Conservatives are flirting with disaster by continuing to question Ignatieff's "Canadianess", as Harper tried to do again this week with his unfortunate attempted attack during the G8 press conference ("he's supposed to be a Canadian").

    As far as I'm concerned, if a person has Canadian citizenship and thinks of him/herself as Canadian that's good enough for me. And I am sure most fair-minded Canadians will be similarly generous. What nerve it takes for one Canadian to question the Canadainess of another. We should be proud that someone as accomplished as Ignatieff – who could live and work anywhere in the world he likes – chose to come back to Canada and devote his life to public service.

    Who else isn't Canadian enough for you? Quebec nationalists? Danny Williams? How about those guys in Alberta who want to separate? Should we have loyalty tests?

  14. Conservatives are flirting with disaster by continuing to question Ignatieff's "Canadianess", as Harper tried to do again this week with his unfortunate attempted attack during the G8 press conference ("he's supposed to be a Canadian").

    As far as I'm concerned, if a person has Canadian citizenship and thinks of him/herself as Canadian that's good enough for me. And I am sure most fair-minded Canadians will be similarly generous. What nerve it takes for one Canadian to question the Canadianess of another. We should be proud that someone as accomplished as Ignatieff – who could live and work anywhere in the world he likes – chose to come back to Canada and devote his life to public service.

    Who else isn't Canadian enough for you? Quebec nationalists? Danny Williams? How about those guys in Alberta who want to separate? Should we have loyalty tests?

    • I agree with you about the conservatives. Its only a matter of time the extremely liberal-biased Canadian media to pull some of Harper's anti-canadian sentiments expressed not so long ago.

  15. Iggy should take a page from the Paul Martin playbook … early on in the election campaign, call a press conference, and when he answers the first question, shout out "I LOOOOOVE CANADA !!!", followed by some usual Liberal boilerplate stuff.

    Then wait for the media to press Harper on how much HE loves Canada.The media will faithfully replay both responses. The voters will get all teary-eyed, watching Iggy get so emotional, compared to that robotic Harper. They will feel bad about having misunderstood him, all because that evil Harper tricked them by taking Iggy's quotes out of context.

    Problem solved for Iggy.

    • I'm sure we'll get a version of that next election although I can't imagine Iggy coming close to matching Paul Martin's undignified behaviour in both the 2004 and 2006 election campaigns.

      I've tried to forget those images of Paul Martin racing literally from coast to coast saying he loved Canada thereby proving the truth of Samuel Johnson's line that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." He had the look of a man strung out on coke. It was a totally pathetic performance, and probably signalled the beginning of the end of his inept political career as PM.

      • "It was a totally pathetic performance, and probably signalled the beginning of the end of his inept political career as PM."

        As CJ says, though, it worked, however pathetic. And, not to quibble, but the beginning of the end of his inept political career as PM dates to about 10 years earlier, when he first discovered that you look twice as convincing if you use "very, very" instead of "very," and four times as convincing with "very, very, very, very."

        • …yup, and convincingness squared if you use "frankly". Harper copied that one.

        • …yup, and convincingness (?) squared if you use "frankly". Harper copied that one.

        • …yup, and you get convincingness (?) squared if you use "frankly". Harper copied that one.

      • "It was a totally pathetic performance, and probably signalled the beginning of the end of his inept political career as PM."

        As CJ says, though, it worked, however pathetic. And, not to quibble, but the beginning of the end of his inept political career as PM dates to about 10 years earlier.

  16. Who else isn't Canadian enough for you? Quebec nationalists? Danny Williams? How about those guys in Alberta who want to separate? Should we have loyalty tests?

    Would you really elect a separatist Prime Minister? I wouldn't. As for Danny, though, I'd vote for him in a second.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *