When Steven Sondheim wrote “Send in the Clowns” for the musical “A Little Night Music,” it was not about circus clowns. It is a haunting song about the mistakes we make in life. It can also be easily applied to politics. Take the recent selection of a new leader for the conservative party.
You can easily visualize MP Pierre Poilievre with a whip and a chair inside a cage with the oversized pussy cats of the conservative party. And you know he will have them jumping through fiery hoops.
But then you realize that to complete the job and achieve his ambition to be prime minister, they have to let him out of his cage. Will that be the time to send in the clowns? Will they be able to take away the image of the whip and chair or as Mr. Poilievre puts it, “Make the grand pivot”? His answer is no. He said “There is no grand pivot. I am as I am.” Or is it time to send in the clowns?
For the first time, at the announcement of the new leader, many conservatives were shown Mrs. Poilievre. She did a carefully scripted introduction for her husband on national television. Call her ‘clown number one.’
I remember another Pierre. Some of us communications people tried to get Pierre Trudeau to bring his wife and first son, Justin, to more events. Our pitch was rejected in very clear terms.
Yet, to make the point even more obvious, Pierre Poilievre brought wife and son to meet the conservative caucus a couple days later. Call the baby ‘clown number two.’
But who are the clowns who can humanize Poilievre for Canadian voters? What we know already is that only a small percentage of Canadian voters would consider him for prime minister. The majority do not think he is trustworthy. Women, particularly, dislike him. Assuming that there will be little need for members of parliament in a cut-down Poilievre parliament, are they just the clowns?
And, after all, what is he offering us? He wants a lean, mean government that leaves Canadians to fend for themselves. He wants fewer bureaucrats and a small civil service. He has no plans to try to alleviate climate change. And he can hardly fix the problems at the passport office or at airports or at border crossings with fewer people.
But there is no doubt that Mr. Poilievre wants to be prime minister.
We will have to keep telling him: “Well, maybe next year.”
Copyright 2022 © Peter Lowry
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