Up until this morning, my tolerance level with these bullshit political machinations over Labor Party leadership, which remains un-revealed and as vague as any morning mist, was at an all-time low. Then I read Malcolm Farnsworth’s Drum piece. A better piece of political journalism and commentary, especially on this current ALP internal debacle, I don’t think I’ve ever read. It’s an absolute pearler, and provides an entirely different perspective on the whole political process.
Farnsworth is correct. What we’re being treated to, via an increasingly ravenous media, IS indeed what politics is all about. Ambition, power and face. There is no ‘national interest’ in any of this Gillard/Rudd shadow boxing, just as there was never any ‘national interest’ in the Howard/Costello, Hawke/Keating, Fraser/Gorton, Gorton/McMahon ad infinitum back into political history in this country, and doubtless any other country. We’re told, by politicians, that people enter public life for the benefit of the society they live in. To be altruistic, make a difference, blah, blah, blah. Yes, some might enter public life with those highfalutin aims in mind, but they are few and far between. Those who do so from within the machinery of a political party must rarely have those aims by definition of the environment they spring from. A political party is all about condensation and coherency of power. John Acton stated in correspondence in 1887:
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.
Are great women always bad women? An aside and irrelevant. Suffice to say that all politics is about power, personal and collective. Side by side with the yearning for power stands ambition, for without ambition, the pursuit of power cannot exist. On the shoulders of ambition rides what I call ‘face’. Call it self-esteem, call it pride, call it awareness of position in the grand scheme. Whatever it’s called, Rudd lost a heaping helping of it in June 2010 by surrendering without a fight to forces railed against him. Forces which had always been railed against him from November 2007. My mail tells me that from election night in 2007, right factionistas within the Labor Party were watching Rudd, and awaiting what they perceived would be his Achilles Heel. His determination to do things his way and there’s the highway if you don’t like it. Rudd’s reputation as a toe-cutter personality went before him from the time he was elected in the seat of Griffith. He, like Latham, was an experiment and one the right faction was prepared to tolerate as long as things rolled along for the Labor machine. As events unfolded around the Resource Super Profits Tax in 2010, those factionistas became nervous. The polls dropped off, nowhere near as badly as they have since, but the feared loss of power spooked the right. Rudd was shoulder-tapped & he folded. All too easily.
We all watched the emotional goodbye, felt heartstrings tugged and wondered at how a political party could effectively assassinate a sitting PM, and more importantly, why? Don’t make the mistake those moves had anything at all to do with Julia Gillard’s ambition, or even her thirst for power. Frankly I believe she scores lowly on both scales. Maybe I’m wrong, but the truth of the matter is that she was installed by power-brokers. Malcolm Farnsworth re-names those power-brokers in his piece. Senators Feeney, Arbib, Farrell, House of Reps member Shorten and non-parliamentary union figure Paul Howes. All hail from top level union backgrounds. Rudd, by contrast, has never held a union position of any kind. The contrast in ethos, or perceived contrast on the part of some, was stark, and doubtless remains so. The problem for the party at the moment is one of having moved away from the party of the working man, and become almost exclusively a party of the unionist organiser. However, that is another issue for another time. Bottom line being that Rudd departed of his own volition, the so-called ‘faceless men’ were seen to have won and the people – that’s you & I – were deprived of our say at the ballot box. Sure, this might be seen to be politics at its rawest, however, what politicians fail to recognise, or lose sight of is that it is we, the people, who put them where they are. Therefore it must be we, the people, who have the final say in their disposal. We don’t elect Prime Ministers, I’m fully aware. We elect individuals, who, in the main, are cogs within the party machines. That much is inescapable. But to have a sitting PM removed by weight of union numbers, purely because said PM wasn’t one of their own, is not indicative of the party I grew up believing in.
So, I guess, despite what I, or indeed anyone might think, this fracas will continue until someone with enough gumption stands up, calls a ballot and let the chips fall where they may. Perhaps this is Rudd’s plan, although if it is, one would think he’d be willing to pull the trigger*. In the grand political scheme, this is a fascinating time for political watchers. I think what really peeves me is the way media feeds off this stuff. Pigs in a trough have better manners.
* to take decisive action with no certainty of the outcome; to make a decision that may very well require inflicting a result that is detrimental to self or others.