Monday, December 04, 2006

Revenge of the "uncharismatic geek"

The Canadian papers this weekend were all, understandably, full of in-depth analyses of the surprise election of Stéphane Dion as the new leader of the federal Liberal party.
He is accused (or congratulated) on sneaking up, all but unseen, on the front runners Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae. The words "geek", "nerd" and "uncharismatic" appear at some stage in almost every article. His command of English is criticized; doubt is cast on the political effects of his Québec pedigree; his one-track insistence on the environment as the single most important issue of the day is decried.
But, guess what? He managed to beat out the handsome and intellectual Ignatieff, and the seasoned and combative Rae.
My only worry is that he managed to do this mainly by the political expedient of teaming up with fourth place candidate Gerard Kennedy, like an underdog tag team. I can’t help but have visions of late-night back-room deals being struck, and shady underground dealings by paid minions.
Not that I have suspicions of anything illicit having taken place - Dion seems morally spotless. It’s just that I would have had more confidence in a Liberal leader voted in by a landslide (rather than one squeaking in by the skin of his teeth) to be able to beat the Tories out of office in a forthcoming election. The fact that less than 20% of Liberal delegates thought him the best leader in the first round of voting (before any political horse-trading and vote-transferring came into play) does not inspire confidence.
But we will see. The latest polls (although you know what I think of them!) show the Liberals under Stéphane Dion handily ahead of the Conservatives. And it is at least nice to have an environmentalist in a position of some power in Canada at last.

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