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How Stephen got his groove back

I guess it’s time to admit it: Stephen Harper has got his groove.

I guess it’s time to admit it: Stephen Harper has got his groove.

It’s not easy to admit when you’ve always thought the PM was the Canadian equivalent of the Dark Lord, surrounding himself with a cabal of fundamentalist Christian Orcs who think the world is 10,000 years old and the little woman belongs in the kitchen, barefoot and denied birth control.

But even I have to admit that the PM is at the wheel in the fast lane and deserves to be there. It all started last month with a Little Help From His Friends, when Harper uncharacteristically crooned the Beatle tune at the piano and solidified his political fortunes.

And this week, he took the stage in Bollywood, of all places, looking like Stephen the Stud with his backup stable of dancers.

All of a sudden, this Reform Party wonk seems to own the stage, even displaying a dash of panache, while Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff, the Pierre Trudeau of the 21st century, comes off looking like that other Stéphane.

It’s not all Harper, of course. Iggy made a bad trade, giving up reflection and discernment for equivocation and poll-watching. He made the great mistake of trying to live up to his expectations right out of the gate by threatening the PM with a great thrashing, and then, exposed as a poseur, left the room in haste, pink cheeks and all.

The PM’s recent song-and-dance routine is just the latest from the man with the plan. He has managed to keep the Orcs from savaging small children in public and has somehow kept his minority mandate alive through two opposition leaders and the worst recession since the Dirty ’30s.

He’s done it with discipline. And he’s done it with a song, if not in his heart, at least on his lips. It doesn’t matter if it’s all spin. It is spin that sends the following message, apparently irresistible to Canadians: This guy is tough but human. It’s a strategy stolen directly from the playbooks of Messieurs Trudeau and Jean Chrétien, two other tough-but-humans. They were marvellous to watch, using whatever props were available to demonstrate their humanity.

Trudeau could say more with a rose than any metrosexual alive today, and Chrétien was all hearty (and heartily fake) bonhomie.

Stephen Harper is standing on the shoulders of giants, and in the process, is starting to stand tall all by himself. Sing us another song, Mr. Harper; you’re the piano man now.