By all accounts, Stephen Harper puts a lot of effort into his job as Prime Minister. And over time, it's pretty easy to see areas where his diligence is paying off. For all of the hard work of policy and management, though, last night may have been one of the best nights the Prime Minister has had since entering politics - and it had nothing to do with taxes, crime, terrorism, the machinery of government or accountability.
While some people are always looking for a reason to hate politicians, most people would rather find a reason to like them, at least a little bit. Last night, the Prime Minister gave those who are still on the fence about him a bit of a glimpse into his soul, and a pretty good one at that.
At a crowded NAC gala co-hosted by his wife Laureen, the kind of event Harper has rarely if ever been spotted at before, the Prime Minister played piano and sang the Beatles With A Little Help From My Friends, accompanied by Yo Yo Ma. This was a remarkably good decision by the PM, and a strikingly good performance. The lyrics were, in this context, ironic and fun, and he looked to be enjoying himself greatly. A spontaneous standing ovation ensued.
Politically, this was a master stroke. The video clip of the PM, singing in tune, having a laugh and enjoying a great piece of music is now launched on the Internet, and the viral impact will likely be extensive. Not a moment of it looked false, even though it could hardly have been more carefully planned.
With this revealing moment, the PM also threw down the gauntlet in the general direction of Michael Ignatieff. For months, the Conservatives have been painting the Liberal Leader as diffident, elitist, not really one of us. Liberals could be excused for wondering if Harper would really be able to win a contest around personal likeability.
Today, they have something more to be worried about than they had yesterday, and they already had plenty.