Does age make the leader?

Everything in life is relative, including – and especially – age. The deep thinking among the pundits is that Paul Martin will be 65 – horrors! – by the time he is anointed on Nov. 15 as the leader of the Natural Governing Party, the Liberals who forever will be in charge of Canada. And, perforce, an old-age pensioner ready for the glue factory.

Well, Konrad Adenauer was born in 1876. He was a member of the Centre Party under the Weimar Republic. He was first suspended by the Nazis and then imprisoned in both 1934 and 1944. He was chancellor of West Germany from 1949 until 1963, when he was 87. He died at 91.

Bismarck, Germany’s Iron Chancellor who introduced the first-ever universal medicare in 1883, survived two attempts on his life, in 1866 and in 1874. He died at 83. Julius Caesar, on the other hand, was assassinated by his friends (hello there, Paul) in 44 BC. He was 56.

Winston Churchill, who fought hand to hand against the dervishes at Omdurman in 1898, was tossed out by Labour Party voters in 1945 after saving Western Civilization and was returned as prime minister at the age of 77 in 1951. This scribbler used to liveround the corner from him, at Ennismore Gardens in Kensington and, on Churchill’s birthday, accompanied Fleet Street photogs who would record him at the window, giving a faint wave for the front pages.

Churchill’s contemporary Adolph Hitler, after attending a private art school in Munich, failed twice to pass into the Vienna Academy. He lived by his wits in Vienna, making a precarious living selling bad postcard sketches. In 1945, he continued to live – and die – by his wits when, with Russian troops only several hundred yards away from his Berlin bunker, he went through a grotesque marriage ceremony with mistress Eva Braun. They then poisoned themselves. He was 56. (Too late, Paul!)

Jean Chrétien, ever the clown, used to tease reporters (and the Martin he dislikes so much) that he might go for a fourth term because Gladstone became prime minister of Britain at 84 – which is true – and it was Gladstone’s fourth journey to 10 Downing Street.

Mackenzie King, now known as a kinky little cutie who talked in seances not only to his dead mother but to his dead dog, was our mysterious prime minister who – like the Energizer bunny – never quit, ruling 1921-26, 1926-30 and 1935-48. He died, stubbornly, at 75. Speaking of stubborn, David Lloyd George, Britain’s 1916-1922 prime minister, was in Hitler’s words “the man who won the war.” When he died at 82, he was still an MP in the House of Commoners.

Another Brit, Pitt the Younger did not attend school because of ill health and was educated at home. At 11, he could translate Latin and Greek. He graduated from Cambridge at 17. At 24, he became Britain’s youngest prime minister. He had no close friends and never married. He died so heavily in debt that the Commons raised £40,000  to pay off his creditors. He was 47. His short life was in no way genetic because Pitt the Elder exhausted by a speech in the House of Lords, fell back into the arms of friends and died on the job. He was 70.

We all know that John Kennedy – defying the pleas of the Secret Service not to go into Dallas, which had more guns than the rest of the world put together – did so in an open convertible because he wanted to show off his beautiful wife. He was 46. We all know that Bobby Kennedy, also defying the pleas of the Secret Service not to plunge into crowds containing potential nuts, did so in that Los Angeles hotel. He was 42.

All the pundits, knowing everything, tell us that since Paul is 65, he will only be a one-term PM and already they are lining up successors – Manley, Sheila, Frank McKenna, Brian Tobin.

Seneca the Younger was born 4 BC and was ordered by Nero to commit suicide in AD 65.

Hang in there, Paul