Saturday, October 16, 2004

Latham's down. Let the kicking begin!

If he wants, John Howard can be Prime Minister for as long as he likes; the Liberal party is about to make him el President for life. The medal-covered military uniform and the gigantic statue in Martin Place can’t be far off.

Meanwhile, Labour is back to the drawing board. Hint: ditch Latham. He was always massively over-rated. With his constant self-mythologising allusions to Gough, the ALP couldn’t help but believe he was the Messiah to lead them from the Wildnerness. The immediate rise in approval ratings after the lead weight of Crean was kicked free seemed to confirm it. But he was just another ordinary leader. The ALP is always ready to believe that waiting in the wings is a leader with the magic touch. They need to be less attached to Whitlam and Keating and study Hawke more – who is after-all the most successful Labor leader ever.

Hawke governed on the strength of his commonsense and his charisma, neither of which Latham has in abundance.

Another model for the Labor party is Howard himself: A man who appeared to be really very ordinary and was kicked to the floor several times but has turned out to be the ‘greatest’ (I can’t bring myself to dispense with the inverted commas) Liberal leader since Menzies. (Actually this sounds like an argument to give Latham a second chance and maybe it is).

Really, what I’m saying is that the ALP believes in ‘magic’ in a way that the Liberals do not; that a leader will come along who will simply catch fire with the electorate. And it isn’t true (most of the time). Great leaders are built over time and are often products of their experience and their organisations; they don’t spring from Western Sydney perfectly formed.

So, ALP: kick back, relax, stop expecting miracles and quietly work towards rebuilding an effective front-bench.

(But what about Julia Gillard, huh? I reckon she could be the next Bob Hawke. What charisma! What a common touch! She just might sweep all before her… Julia Gillard, Australia’s next Prime Minister. Has a real ring to it, doesn’t it?)

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