Last chance politics

I was sitting in the First Class lounge at Paddington waiting to board my train to Bath that I found out that Julia Gillard had been deposed as Prime Minister by Kevin Rudd. I had glanced up at the TV high on the wall broadcasting BBC news silently, and read the little snippet of news flash by at the foot of the screen.

I looked on, hoping for further details, more in rapt fascination than the relieved jubilation I might have felt. On the train to Bath I felt more feeling return to me. A full 18 months ago I had predicted the disastrous and inevitable course of events we have been witness to. It seemed clear to me even then that the die had been cast, and that the only hope of the Labor party surviving as a viable and relevant concern was with Rudd back in the job. I had been scathing of the Labor members too fearful to do anything other than bury their head deeper into the sand. Perhaps a miracle would transform their chances. Maybe the political fairy would listen to their fevered prayers and grant them a wish. Perhaps the world would end.

It’s fair to say there are very few politicians from either side I respect. I think Abbott is a buffoon, Hockey a gibbering fool, and Bishop a Stepford wife. There’s no possible way I could vote for them in their present incarnation. I was not about to vote for Labor either, until now, but still have serious concerns about the calibre of candidate on offer.

With the writing on the wall for so long their protracted refusal to accept it bodes ill. Either they’re dumb, hopelessly deluded, or have testicles the size of a freeze-dried pea. Probably all, though I’m certain that half of them sit down to pee. That they have finally changed  their tune does little to redeem them in my opinion – in some ways, just the opposite. Come the ultimate crunch it smacks more of self-preservation than public service. Public service decreed that this, the deposition of Gillard, should have come long ago.

A few days on, and having caught up with the details properly, I feel as if we’ve been granted a last-minute reprieve. It may only be a stay of execution, but we know at least that the disastrous hiding the Labor party was facing with Gillard in the job has now been averted. Defeat is still likely – though not certain – but if it comes it will be recoverable.

What are the odds? Slightly against I would think, though Rudd is a great campaigner, a far superior communicator than either Abbott or Gillard, and is much more popular than any of them. It’s all up to the next 6-8 weeks. Rudd needs to keep busy. He needs to show that he’s in control, and doing things. Certainly the Libs will be nervous for the first time in quite a while.

As for Gillard? I don’t want to be ungracious, but I have little time for her. Predictably, and hypocritically, many are coming out now about how unfortunate she was throughout, and how gracious she was bowing out.

Well, it’s all about getting the job done. There’s no doubt that she was a victim of sexism, primarily from the right side of politics, and in large swathes of the media. A more capable woman would have overcome that, and ultimately she is out of the job because she was not nearly capable enough. To claim, as some have, that she lost the job because she is a woman is reprehensible.

It’s interesting commentary nonetheless. Sitting here in England watching reports you get a different slant. In the jingoistic way of much of the press – even the quality press – it was claimed that a significant reason that she lost her job was because so few men supported her. Well, with an approval rating of under 30%, the reality is that clearly a substantial section of the female electorate wouldn’t have a bar of her either. On my part I couldn’t care less what the sex of our leader is, or religion or creed, as long as they can do the job. It will matter to some, but more most it’s all about the job.

Gillard was a victim of her own wretched judgement time after time. Too often she was strong when she should have been flexible, and weak when strength would have carried the day. She was a poor communicator, either failing to sell the achievements when they came, or else managing to put her foot in it. From the outside she appeared beholden to the union movement who put her in the job, and in the thrall to Machiavellian advisers very much out of tune with public sentiment. On a basic level lots disliked and/or mistrusted her. Her greatest moments came when she let herself go – such as her misogyny speech – otherwise she appeared stiff, even cold, and over-concerned with spouting the carefully contrived party line. Had she been bold enough to be her own woman then perhaps none of this need have happened.

By and large my greatest beef with her were the policies and perspectives that went against old-fashioned Labor principles, and common decency. She played politics with important issues that needed to be better and more humanely dealt with. The asylum seekers is the obvious one, but so too is same-sex marriage.

She did achieve things, much of which will be lasting unless Abbott comes in and acts the vandal. The carbon tax is a success; hopefully the Gonski reforms will become reality also. Then there’s the national disability insurance scheme. The NBN – a great nation-building exercise – was a Rudd initiative. The super-tax was a botched opportunity and failure of nerve.

That’s her forte I suspect, policy making, without the pressures of leadership or the need to play politics. As a deputy leader I suspect she would be highly capable; as leader she was a disaster.

 

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