Fiona Ness: 'Allow yourself a smile at the fall of Trudeau'

There’s inglorious pleasure to be had in witnessing the shine being knocked off Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. When the six-foot-two, eyes of blue, baby-balancing PM came to power in 2015, promising a transparent, liberal and feminist agenda, I disliked him immediately. He was a busy family man who somehow found the time to maintain dramatic core strength; something couldn’t possibly be right. His perfectness irked me.

But in the first stages of our love affair with Trudeau, we gazed at him and his perfectly gender-balanced cabinet and his commitment to the rights of indigenous people and saw nothing but loveliness – right down to his socks.

No thanks, I thought. Give me a dour Gordon Brown or a what-you-see-isn’t-what-you-get Bertie Ahern any day.

So now, having tap-danced his way to the top, Trudeau is fronting allegations of having interfered inappropriately in a corruption and fraud prosecution made by a company which employs thousands of Canadians.

Earlier this month, the Canadian justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from his cabinet in protest against Trudeau, and a second female cabinet member has followed suit.

Do Canadians care if their PM isn’t afraid to get personal (he has spoken candidly about both his wife’s eating disorders and his mother’s bipolar diagnosis) when, years after taking office, he is no closer to realising his promised national child-care programme or funding a solution to his country’s urban housing crisis?

Do they care about his promises to raise his sons as feminists, when electoral reform pushed for by women’s organisations has halted, as has a promised inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women?

As the old adage goes, when something looks too good to be true, it usually is. Or as one sage put it – this is what you get when you elect a drama teacher as prime minister.

Sometimes all the hard work doesn’t add up

“What’s your talent?” The 10-year-old wants to know – as if finding one is the secret to success. “Hard work,” I retort, passing her a broom and the boring old advice that no one is born with a talent, they only acquire the illusion of it through pure graft.

Which is why the idea of “maths anxiety” fuelling a national crisis in children in Britain irritates me no end. Cambridge University researchers have said that one in 10 children suffers from “despair and rage” when they approach the subject.

Part of the problem is we tell ourselves you’re either born with an aptitude for maths or you’re not. And if not, well, you’ll struggle. Children think maths is hard because they’re no good at it, when actually, maths is hard because maths is hard – which also makes it exciting. At home I adopt a policy of “Oh, fractions! How thrilling!” when the homework comes out. I enthuse that everything is informed by maths – from music to nature. Do they believe me?

Perversely, more than three-quarters of the children in the study who had high levels of maths anxiety were normal to high achievers. This resonates with me, having suffered acute maths anxiety, especially after being streamed into the top set for maths at secondary school.

The class gave me plenty of scope to discover my “talent”, because the fear of being outed as the class dummy meant I worked harder at maths than any other subject. I left my maths Leaving Cert exam certain I had an A. Then I opened my brain and let all the maths run out. Today, I couldn’t balance a simple equation and thank goodness I don’t need to. Because maths is really hard, you know.

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