In recent weeks, authority and credibility had been draining away from Julia Gillard as if from an open wound. The effect of three years of mounting mistrust in the country and her party over any number of missteps, setbacks and policy debacles, coupled with pathetically low opinion polls, finally undermined Australia’s first female prime minister. Those who rallied around her did so with little more than fatalism. Theirs was a contemporary Charge of the Light Brigade.
Ultimately, even the most ardent of her supporters accepted that matters had turned so nasty that Labor simply could not be led by Ms Gillard any longer. Party officials found it hard to motivate the grass roots, much less crucial swing voters in the battleground seats in western Sydney and Queensland. Worse for Ms Gillard, polls revealed that it was the leader herself who was turning people off. The feminist rant against men in blue ties, the desperate attempts to link Tony Abbott and the Queensland LNP to misogyny, her failure to stitch up favourable publicity via the British monarchy in Women’s Weekly magazine: all of this showed poor judgement, smacked of desperation and set the scene for her demise. History will regard her as the worst prime minister since Kevin Rudd.
Perhaps the kindest thing that could be said about the bloke she knifed is that he has animal instincts for survival. Widely written off after his savage stabbing by
a bunch of factional union thugs three years ago this week, as well as failed and botched challenges in February 2012 and last March respectively, Mr Rudd bounced back from adversity and despair with incredible tenacity.
Our former columnist Mark Latham predictably overstated things on Q&A recently when he said Mr Rudd had conducted ‘a jihad of revenge’ which amounted to ‘evil’. Still, there is no question that treachery and hypocrisy are integral to Mr Rudd’s character; and his political career, especially his brief prime ministership from late 2007 to mid-2010, was marked by such qualities. Predictably, many members of the cabinet detest him so much that they have resigned from cabinet.
Those who lie awake at night dreaming of a miraculous Labor resurgence may find their fantasies fulfilled in the short run. But the reality will sink in (again) that Mr Rudd has absolutely nothing to offer the well-being of our nation, our economy, or those who desire a confidant, productive and vibrant business environment.
He has neatly avoided confronting or owning up to the mess of failed, broken or unworkable policies that Ms Gillard inherited and which, without doubt, helped doom her leadership from the start. The list is long and varied, and ideally will form the backbone of the Coalition’s attack upon him during the election campaign.
Labor party parliamentary members repeatedly dismissed Mr Rudd as ‘dysfunctional’, a ‘psychopath’ and ‘a complete and utter fraud’. Yet now they wish to inflict upon the Australian people the very person they were so reluctant to inflict upon themselves. Clearly, it is the Labor party itself that is not only dysfunctional, but shows obvious tendencies towards disturbingly psychopathic behaviour.
Fittingly, the world’s most famous spin doctor began his career writing about fake sexual exploits for Penthouse Forum. There has always been something toe-curlingly tacky about the profession for which Alastair Campbell became
a poster boy. Mr Campbell — Tony Blair’s infamous Director of Communications and Strategy — left a legacy of his Downing Street period that includes the ‘Dodgy Dossier’ of Iraq war fame and his resignation during the Hutton Inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly. It also includes our very own master of spin, 457 visa holder John McTernan.
When it was put to him by Lateline’s Emma Alberici that Mr McTernan ‘was brought in from the UK, considered to have skills we didn’t have here in Australia’, Mr Campbell refused to take credit. ‘I’d left by the time John was political secretary,’ he claimed, ‘but I’ve known him in the Labour party for years and years and years.’
John McTernan did not create the internal division that destroyed Julia Gillard, but he played a large part in guiding her flawed, divisive politics. From the bizarre roo-knitting photo session to the reckless re-use of abortion as a political tool, from men in blue ties to the Rooty Hill massacre, the endless attempts to ‘create a narrative’ all backfired. It is to be hoped that Ms Gillard’s successors — in both parties — recognise that spin will never substitute for political conviction and firm beliefs.