Michael Ignatieff has had enough of the self-anointed experts on TV and in the newspapers spouting about Monday's general election in Canada. OhEUR those "all-wiseEUR all-knowing media"EUR he lamented last weekEUR "the punditsEUR the columnistsEUR the reportersEUR know the result already. If you believe the mediaEUR it's all over".
Such chiding seems pretty funny coming from the same Ignatieff who for most of the 1980s and 1990s took his perch as one of the most prolific pon-tificators on Britain's comment pages and television setsEUR usually for the BBC. Is this the same square- jawed intellectual of the leftEUR who loved publicly to assail everyone from Margaret Thatcher to the dilly-dalliers in Europe when Yugoslavia imploded?
But if IgnatieffEUR 58EUR has suddenly lost his sense of humourEUR we might need to forgive him. A Canadian by birth - but with more than a dash of Russian bloodEUR some of it even royal - Ignatieff is himself running in Canada's election for the Liberal Party in an allegedly safe constituency on the edge of Toronto. And for all kinds of reasons - some of his making and others not - he really hasn't been having fun at all.
It was about five years ago while delivering a speech in Canada on his well-worn theme that his native country had become marginalised on the world stage by squishy leftist-liberal sanctimony in Ottawa when an audience member posed a tricky question. Isn't that enough carping about Canada from your ivory towersEUR the person wanted to knowEUR How about coming home and doing something about it?
It took a whileEUR but Ignatieff eventually picked up the gauntlet. Early last year he delivered the keynote speech at the Liberal Party convention in OttawaEUR and in November it was announced that he would run in the seat of Etobicoke-Lakeshore in Toronto. The general election was called soon afterwardsEUR when the Liberal Prime MinisterEUR Paul MartinEUR was ousted in a no- confidence vote in parliament.
But why is he doing it? His career as a political philosopherEUR mostly in matters of foreign affairs and human rightsEUR had been going just fine. He had serial books under his beltEUR including two novelsEUR a half-score honorary doctoratesEUR andEUR since 2000EUR when he left Britain after 24 yearsEUR a coveted human rights professorship at Harvard. What could possibly explain his desire to plunge into grubby national politics - deep-in the-woods Canadian politicsEUR what's more - at this distinguished time of his life?
Perhaps he simply recognised the uncomfortable truth behind the questioner's challengeEUR that being a gas-bagEUR however incisive and provocativeEUR is not enough. At some point you need to join those you castigate and see if you can do better. Just as likelyEUR howeverEUR it has to do with ancestry and genes. Ignatieff comes from a family that considered international treaties light reading and the attainment of high office almost a solemn duty.
The royal part is for real and perhaps is the source of Mr Ignatieff's sometimes haughty - some might say patronising - bearing. (The blue blood may be behind the good looks that prompted Canada's weekly Macleans to name him the country's "sexiest cerebral man" in 2003.)Princess Natasha Mestchersky was married to Ignatieff's paternal grandfatherEUR Count Paul IgnatieffEUR a close aide to the ill-fated Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his last education minister. Come the Russian RevolutionEUR the Count escaped with his wife and five sonsEUR and landed in a welcoming land of peace and freedom called Canada.
One of Paul's sonsEUR George IgnatieffEUR was to become one of the foremost figures in 20th-century Canadian diplomacy. He was ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1956 to 1958EUR and his country's representative to Nato before transferring to New York where he was ambassador at the UN. If Canada has a …