Thanks to his clever use of social media, he was dubbed the first prime minister of the Instagram age – but after four years in power, cracks in his image have started to show.

By Ashifa Kassam

On the last night of March 2012, Justin Trudeau climbed into a boxing ring in downtown Ottawa, the Canadian capital, intent on rescuing his public image. He was clad in a lustrous red robe, the colour of the Liberal party, for which he was then a junior member of parliament. In the opposite corner, wearing Tory blue, was a young aboriginal leader and Conservative senator named Patrick Brazeau, who is a former navy reservist and a second-degree black belt in karate. Bookies had given the lanky Trudeau, a former high school teacher, three-to-one odds against.

The televised match was ostensibly a fundraiser for cancer research, but in Ottawa it became a sensation – a display of partisan pageantry rarely seen in the staid world of Canadian politics, where “bland works” had been the watchword of one long-serving provincial premier. The fight’s symbolism was lost on no one: in recent years, the Conservatives had battered the Liberals, turning a narrow lead in the 2006 election into a majority government by 2011. The Liberal party, which had governed Canada for much of the 20th century, had been reduced to a historically low number of seats.

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