I didn’t like to kiss babies though I didn’t mind kissing their mothers…I didn’t like to slap backs or other parts of the anatomy –but mingling with people… I really enjoyed… if there wasn’t too much of it…Pierre Trudeau on adulation.

Drawing comparisons between Justin Trudeau and his father has already become a bit of a cliché, and it’s abundantly clear Trudeau fils will insist on being judged on his own terms. Still last month we have the spectacle of the young Trudeau family in London, and it is difficult not to hark back to Pierre Trudeau’s trip there in 1969 and to draw some comparisons and contrasts. In 1969 Pierre Trudeau was still single as he attended a Commonwealth conference, and virtually stole the spotlight from all the other leaders. It was on this trip that Trudeau slid down a bannister—the pirouette behind the Queen’s back came several years later. The British press followed him everywhere, especially when he lunched with Canadian –born Eva Rittinghausen, a photogenic blonde jet-setter 15 years his junior whom the Prime Minister had met in Canada the previous summer. Any thought of a lasting relationship was dashed, however, when Rittinghausen indiscreetly held a news conference declaring herself “free to marry” and revealing other personal details about her encounters with Trudeau. Questioned at his own subsequent news conference, Trudeau described her as a ‘passing acquaintance’—the diplomatic equivalent of ‘see ya.’

Similarly the visit to London by Justin Trudeau has attracted a lot of British media attention but in contrast to his father, Justin Trudeau is much married to the glamorous Sophie and they have brought two of their three adorable children along as well. In an extended BBC interview Trudeau sought to put comparisons with his father in context, “I am incredibly proud of my father the values he stood for…and I respect Canadians’ intelligence…I know if I’m sitting here as Prime Minister it has very little to do with my last name…I don’t deny that doors were opened up to me…(but) the way I was raised was that I had to work twice as hard as anyone else to walk through that door.” Veering closer to his father’s steely combativeness he added, “There’s an awful lot of people who shrugged and said ‘he has nothing but a name to go on’…but found themselves slightly bewildered as I left them in the dust.” It was a comment reminiscent of the elder Trudeau’s, “just watch me” during the FLQ crisis.

If Pierre Trudeau was reluctant to pat people on the back or elsewhere, there appears to be no such reticence on the part of Justin. In covering the Trudeau visit the British press demonstrated its keen eye for the trivial. The Daily Mail manufactured a bit of a controversy over Justin’s habit of doing the “two-hand” handshake as he did with the Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron. The Mail interviewed behavior analysts and a psychologist who said such a gesture is a sign of insincerity. One wrote, “Unless the two of you are good friends, this is a form of false sincerity. The person is attempting to communicate that the two of you have a deeper relationship than you actually have.” The article triggered 325 comments ranging from, “How on earth is that a patronising handshake? I’d call it warm,” to a Manchester reader who described Trudeau and Cameron as “two gutless wimps together. Putin must be laughing his socks off.”

Trudeau’s visit to London came on the heels of an APEC conference in Manila, where the Philippine media were transformed into a screaming mob of groupies swarming Trudeau for selfies. The media even established a Twitter site, (#apec hotties) comparing Trudeau with the photogenic president of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto. Typical of the tweets: ”Trudeau is the one! Can’t take my eyes off you. You’re a stress reliever!”

For her part, Sophie Trudeau has been the subject of numerous flattering articles in the fashion media about her choice of Canadian designers in her wardrobe (her fashion consultant is Jessica Mulroney, wife of another Prime Ministerial scion). The New York Post even described her as the “hottest first lady in the world,” no small compliment in a world populated by the likes of Kate Middleton and Angelica Rivera, wife of Mexico’s President who is a singer, model and actress.

by Lisa Hopkins-LaFong

Providing a fresh perspective for Hamilton and Burlington

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