Jealousy at the Heart of Australian Labor Party's Implosion
There are miles of words written these past few days about the battle royal for the Prime Ministership of Australia. Commentators from every angle are parsing every shred of the evidence they have about Kevin Rudd's behavior and Julia Gillard's. And in reading many of them the cynicism about politics is the dominant coloring, and the predictions of outcome are: status quo will win... in less than 2 hours.
The two commentators I find most helpful are Michael Gawenda and Peter Hartcher. They seem to get to the heart of the misinformation that's been tipped into the public place by venal political opponents of Rudd. And most of the reporters and commentators seem to buy that enough voices shouting about Rudd's micromanagement, his tyrannical style, even calling him dysfunctional, psychopath and destabilizer of the government - they seem to think there must be significant truth in it. But Dick Cheney in the Bush administration used the same tactic over the Iraq war and journalists and commentators bought that too, to their everlasting shame.
Gawenda is right in that we have no idea if Rudd is the leaker of damaging information about Gillard's government. He suspects he is, but no one is coming forward. But journalists have used the cheapest argument of all in this debate - an ad hominem argument - we all know it's true - but they name no names of journalists to whom Rudd or his supporters have leaked.
Hartcher is right that Labor loses hugely in this fight, especially if Rudd is not elected - because the downward spiral of a party led by people who most Australians regard as treacherous will continue. It's a footnote that the leader of the Liberal Party is the least qualified candidate for Prime Minister in a lifetime.
My own analysis - with 1.5 hours to the showdown between Gillard and Rudd is that jealousy has consumed Rudd's opponents. The Rudd government in 18 months was the most productive government for reform and legislation in the history of the country. That has been attested to by Hartcher and others. It was driven by a brilliant man. And it's his brilliance, and his popularity with the people of Australia, not his so called dysfunctional "let's get it done" leadership style to which the mean spirited Labor caucus has responded so viciously. With the power that comes with popularity Rudd was a threat to the status quo of the caucus. Self interested politicians, giving favors, to call in favors, found their style of politics was under threat from Rudd as all powerful leader. He wouldn't deal with them. They stabbed him in the back and Gillard will be forever tainted by that - such a sad way for the first woman Prime Minister to rise to office. Es tu Julia?
It seems clear to me that fear and jealousy in the party will win the day and Julia will get the nod. There may well be an early election because the independents who helped Gillard form government in an indeterminate previous election may find the "resolved" Labor party under Gillard has just spent it's last dollar of favor.
It's one of the saddest days in Australian political history to watch the best person for the job lose (in this case the man) because a political party of cronyism refuses to be reformed. But, I persist in hope that in a few hours it won't come to this conclusion and sanity prevails.
Post Script - the Ballot went 71 - 31 in favor of Julia Gillard. The deathroes of the party won't be avoided by this outcome. It's a Shakespearean tragedy playing out through to the next election.
And the last paragraph in a New York Times analysis Feb 28, 2012:
Ms. Gillard’s supporters may dismiss Mr. Rudd’s popularity with the electorate at their own peril, Mr. Wesley said.
“I think a really quite damaging narrative has opened up in all of this, and it’s been lost in some of the commentary,” he said, “and that’s this idea of ‘the candidate of the people versus the candidate of the party,’ and you couldn’t have had a starker difference looking at the polls this morning and looking at the results of the vote. I think that will be manifest in the election when it comes.”
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