A fact that should frighten us all: the Prime Minister’s cat positives/negatives and Ignatieff’s cat positives/negatives will actually swing a few votes.
The purpose of the cat photo-op for the Prime Minister is to show the “softer side of Steve” according to those that run focus groups. The sweater during the last campaign had the same objective. For years, the Liberals have tried to craft an image of the Prime Minister of a scary, mean and cold man. Kittens and sweaters? All that’s missing is the trolly to the land of Make-Believe, neighbour. Prime Ministerial image crafting aside, to most voters the PM has instead turned out to be calm, predictable and maybe even a little boring. But, against the crafted image of the fearsome ogre by his opponents, the realities both crafted and actual serve him well.
Here, Michael Ignatieff — in sweater — stares down his cat. Ignatieff’s perceived negatives — that he’s arrogant, aloof, crafty and out-of-touch — are not diminished by the cat photo-op. Stephane Dion named his dog Kyoto to emphasize a clear policy initiative of his leadership. Mr. Ignatieff has not carved out any bold policy direction on much of anything and naming the cat Nuance may be a move that only Ignatieff and the cat understand.
I note that the Hill Times today published its annual “Sexy, Savvy and Best Dressed Survey”. The global economy is melting down and this hottie headliner is on lips of Hill staff and media this week. Lest this be a curmudgeon grumble piece on the state of news today (back in my day…), but really, there’s got to be more going on. Yet, the piece does come out in the middle of two break weeks on Parliament Hill, and at least Jane Taber’s belyingly-titled Hot and Not article is about politics.
But in the same issue that we find an a republish of an article by James Travers bemoaning the declining relevance of Parliament as a democratic body — “welcome to court government” — we find out that Rona and Helena have the best hair! I’m now flipping through these pages looking for the stock article on the under-representation of women in Parliament…
Perhaps they don’t want to show up given this superficial focus.
But most of this does amount to political theatre and pollsters will show you charts (with trendlines and error bars, no less) showing that focus groups are somewhat accurate in determining that Stephen Harper wearing a sweater holding a kitten softens his image and improves electability, that Michael Ignatieff needs to shed some ivory-tower arrogance by hitting the hamburger circuit this summer and that Preston Manning needed to ditch the glasses in order to get his message out to more Canadians. Issues and policies also rank lower among concerns among Canadians, but woah, what was he/she thinking wearing that to last year’s Hill Gala?!
Speaking to friends over at Macleans.ca, I’m told that last year among the most trafficked articles were those featuring photos of Julie Couillard. In fact, Julie Couillard ranked one of the highest related search terms for Macleans in 2008. In that case, “Julie Couillard”, “Julie Couillard”, “Julie Couillard”.
That said, you won’t find photos of Justin Trudeau or Ruby Dhalla’s leaked Bollywood movie here… but if you came here from Google looking for these things, stick around… I’ll see if I can entice you with a discussion on the finer points of whether provincial- or municipal-linked federal Senate elections better afford Premiers and Prime Ministers the required political cover and feasibility to move forward on reform of our bicameral system.
Hey! Where are you going? Come back!
Oh, all right…
Hot: TMZ and eTalk
Not: New York Times and the Globe and Mail