Three weeks ago, photographs were published of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. They showed him in his younger days, dressed up, with his face daubed with dark make-up. It felt like they would become the defining images of this year’s vote, not solely for what they depicted but because they contributed to a profile of a man not to be trusted. Here was the personification of broken promises and political aloofness, otherwise known as business as usual.
Now, however, the latest opinion polls suggest that his Liberal party is still locked in a battle with his main opponents: neck and neck with the Conservatives on the right and not far ahead of the New Democrats on the left. Trudeau’s ratings are unchanged. And research published by McGill University in Montréal last week revealed that the scandal died out, where online chatter is concerned, after three days.
Why? Well, firstly, Trudeau’s handling of the affair was a masterclass in political damage control: his apologies were swift and sincere, and he made them over and over again. Secondly, his opponents have failed to capture the popular imagination, regardless of the PM’s actions. So while scandals can make voters reassess their political priorities, Trudeau seems to represent more than his misadventures in fancy dress. He is still a contender.