Fire and Ashes







Fire and Ashes

Fire and Ashes: Failure and Success is a book written by a Canadian politician who tried making it in the Canadian political system but failed. Ignatieff is a case of illusion where one does not want to stop living in his fantasy. Thinking that he had seen much of the real world, he decided to venture into the Canadian politics where he won twice and lost once. Ignatieff was an accomplished journalist and academician before deciding to plunge into the murky labyrinth of politics. This book narrates the story of Ignatieff who was an extremely brilliant lecturer at Harvard University before beginning his political journey.

Ignatieff had been abroad for 30 years and when he came back, the natives did not warm to his return. Most of them thought that he was meddling in their affairs. In the book, he describes how the people were unwilling to forgive him for his vehement support in the Iraq War (Ignateiff, 2013). According to the book, he explains his plight as a Canadian staying in the USA. In most of the speeches in the book he repeatedly uses the personal pronoun ‘we’ to describe the American foreign policy. The book describes how Ignateiff felt rejected in spite of his good heart in minding the welfare of the Canadian people. By nature, politics is a tough world, which requires humility, compelling curiosity, and willingness to listen. At one time during his tenure, Ignatieff was shocked when he was greeted by hordes of angry protestors whose issues he had disregarded. According to Newman (2013), it is evident that citizens dislike it when a leader comes back from another region and start dictating to them on how they ought to run their affairs.

At times, it is possible for an otherwise sensible person to turn his life upside down for the sake of a dream. According to Roeder, Ignatieff was hard on himself for failing to meet the expectations that he had for the people of Canada (Roeder, 2005). In the book Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics Ignateiff feels that part of the reason why he had failed was that it was not part of his childhood dream to become a politician (Ignateiff, 2013). Instead, he says that three men in black conceived his involvement in politics. According to him, these men felt that he was doing his native country an injustice by remaining in Harvard teaching while he could have been of much use to his native Canada.

Ignateiff had always admired intellectuals who had made a mark by transiting from academics into politics. He felt that leadership could only be achieved efficiently by applying the concepts taught in class. Because of these, he felt that he was well placed to lead the Liberal party of Canada. What Ignateiff did not consider is that not all academics had made it in the political playground. Some had failed miserably. Instead of learning from their lessons, Ignatieff thought that he was not in their league of failure (Wells, 2013).

According to Ignateiff, the men in black had convinced him that they were going to make him the prime minister of Canada. This was too good an offer to resist. In the book, he clearly states that he decided to pursue the flames of power while seeing hope dwindling to ashes (Ignateiff, 2013). He wonders why he left a self-fulfilling career as an academician to delve into the uncertain path of politics. He cites his long absence from Canada as one of the main reasons that led to his political downfall. As a result of his busy schedule as a journalist, novelist, television personality and academician at Harvard, Ignateiff was dogged by the accusations of ‘’just visiting” Canada. It was inevitable that the natives would think that Ignateiff had come back home not for his love of the people, but in order to spur and fuel his political ambitions (Roeder, 2005).

Ignatieff in one of his contributions to the New York Times openly supported the idea of United States Army being in Iraq. Canada, being one of the most pacified countries in the World, could not stand the idea of a ruler who was actively supporting the War in Iraq (Lipsschultz, 2004). For this reason, his leadership did not last for long. Ignatieff’s other reason for failure was the scathing attacks that he got from the Conservatives who were willing to spend their money to spread rumors about his heartless nature. He goes ahead in the book to relate his predicaments to those of US-President Barack Obama when he was associated with Rev. Jeremiah Wright (Ignateiff, 2013). In his case, Obama was able to turn his attacks into political points thus helping him to garner the much needed support. Ignatieff being an academic and an outsider lacked some of Obama’s gifts. He did not exert the mantle of authenticity needed to overturn the people’s perceptions once the rumors spread (Roeder, 2005).

Some of the factors that caused the downfall of Ignatieff in the elections were not of his in the making. They were just beyond his control. For instance, the political agenda as is the case in the Western nations was moving to the right (Newman, 2013). Conservative politicians are always on the lookout for loopholes through which they talk down government and starve them of the funds. Because of these, they reap the rewards from voters who have become disillusioned with incompetent and inadequate government services. During the elections of 2011, the liberals suffered a terrible defeat, partly because of Ignatieff but also due to factors well beyond his control (Newman, 2013).

According to Newman, hubris was one of the main reasons why Ignatieff failed terrible in the elections of 2011 (Newman, 2013). Hubris is the aspect of overestimating one’s abilities and disregarding the abilities of your opponents. He underestimated the ferocity of the conservative’s attacks as well as underestimating the attacks from within his own party. Concurring with this, it is evident that no one goes into politics without overestimating his or her abilities as well as underestimating the difficulties to be met.

According to Roeder, Ignatieff was one known to assume many facts (Roeder, 2005). He saw Stephen Dion attacked by the conservatives but he took no action. He never learnt from his predecessors’ mistakes. Other reviews point out to the fact the Liberal party had little money compared to the conservative party. From their weighty financial muscles, they could loathe an attack on whomever they wanted (Wells, 2013). One clear thing is that during these attacks one is lured into trap. As for Ignatieff, he was hit by an attack and he replied to the negative attack. Through this, it became clear that he was contributing to the same problem that he was objecting. He regrets why they did not have enough money to fuel their campaign. They could have spread positive messages across Canada. He points out that the only way to counter a negative attack is by launching a positive attack (Ignateiff, 2013).

Ignateiff says in his book, “The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president. But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion (Ignateiff, 2013).” In this quote, Ignatieff concludes that his contribution to a sensitive issue on the case of war in Iraq was one of the major reasons for his downfall. As a politician at times you have to be bold enough no matter the price you are going to pay. The political systems are set in such a way that those politicians who are not ready to pounce on some sensitive matters are regarded as outcasts and are never the darling of the masses (Ignateiff, 2013).


The strongest man is he who stands alone (Ibsen, 2012). Ignatieff, in his quest to be the prime minister of Canada, believed very much in a cause that only he understood. He had the good will of the people at heart. It is for this reason that he had sacrificed his well-paying job as an academician in order to help his motherland Canada. The conservatives were not ready for the change that Ignatieff brought therefore they decided to label him as an enemy of Canada. No matter how much one strives to help people, they cannot be helped unless they themselves want to feel and be part of that change. The people of Canada were unwilling to change after being blindly coerced into voting for the Conservative party.




Ibsen, H. (2012). An Enemy of the People. NewYork: Dramatist Play Services.

Ignateiff, M. (2013). Fire and Ashes: Sucess and Failure in Politics. Canada: Random House.

Lipsschultz, S. (2004). Social Feminism: Labor Politics and the Law. Chicago: Routledge.

Newman, P. (2013). When the Gods Changed. The Death of Liberalism in Canada. Canada: Random House.

Roeder, P. (2005). Red Sunset: The failure of Soviet Politics. NewYork: Princeton University Press.

Wells, P. (2013). The Longer I’m Prime Minister. Canada: Random House.