This time, of course, it will all be different. Apart from the stuff that's the same.
This was written and filed to the Canberra Times hours before yesterdays ballot (forgive the boasting). nothing has required any changes . . .
So what was that all about, then? Kevin Rudd never had the numbers and he’ll never get them, either. Not now. So what force, buried deep within, has driven him onwards towards inevitable defeat and the ignomy of being rejected, not just once, but twice, by his ‘colleagues’? Was it to fatally cripple the party that made him Prime Minister. It’s impossible to explain his actions without grasping for words that don’t often get much of a work-out in a family paper. Megalomania. Hubris. It’s pathological.
For someone who’s supposedly very intelligent, the bloke’s got a consistent pattern of doing things that are utterly stupid.
What else can explain his implacable desire to challenge Julia Gillard, destroy Labor, and ensure Tony Abbott slips into the Lodge as soon as the next election is held?
Anyone who could count knew late last year that he’d never get the numbers. At least a third of the party would have preferred to cut out their tongues with blunt saws rather than acclaim him as leader again. And that was before the challenge. Forget the idea of some sort of ‘second attempt’, the ‘Keating strategy’. Rudd’s finished. Now enough Labor MP’s hate – and mark that word hate – him so much that there will never, ever again be a Rudd government. But he persisted in trying it on. Why?
Rudd never managed to complete maths at high school, so it’s easy to assume this explains why he can’t grasp the basic concepts involved in counting the numbers to topple the leader. But it’s necessary to find some far more elemental force in his personality if we really want to explain why he brought on this clash, refusing to accept he was never going to get the numbers he needed to challenge Gillard.
Rudd has been campaigning furiously for the leadership since October last year. In that time Julia Gillard has stepped from one self-inflicted disaster to another. Despite this the basic arithmetic has never changed. Over the entire period. And this is what makes his attack on the Prime Minister so futile, inexplicable, pointless and self-indulgent. There was never any chance of success.
A couple of waverers might have flicked across at the last moment, but so what. There were never going to be enough votes to re-install Rudd in the Lodge. Anyone who could count realised he would never get the votes he so desperately needed. It was simply a question of how badly he’d be trashed. He claims to love Labor, but the only thing his actions have achieved is to cripple its legitimacy and divide the party. It’s increasingly difficult to give anyone the benefit of the doubt.
Take, for example, Anthony Albanese. There's more than a touch of Boxer – the old plough-horse in George Orwell’s Animal Farm – in Albo. In the novel Boxer represents the proletariat, the workers of the world; the ordinary people who are naïveté enough to allow themselves to be exploited by first, the bosses, and then by the political class who inevitably rise to the top after the revolution.
The trouble is that Boxer’s a bit slow. Despite all his noble effort, he can’t quite understand what’s really going on. No one doubts his integrity. And that’s where the similarity to Albo creeps in. He trades on it. The trouble is, he says, that when Rudd was deposed he didn’t get to lodge his protest and vote against Gillard then. So he’s doing it now. Cue tears.
It’s a cute story. But a couple of issues linger which make you wonder about which particular world this person, responsible for billions of dollars of our infrastructure spending, actually inhabits. The first is simple. If you don’t win in politics, you can’t achieve anything. Albo knew Rudd wouldn’t win, but chose to back the former leader anyway. Pointless, yes, but at least it can be explained. Particularly coming from someone who loves the party.
But then cut to his extraordinary press conference where he attempted to perform open-heart surgery on himself. At first, this was fair enough. He was emotional. The difficulty is attempting to reconcile what he said with the calm calculation of his timing in announcing he was backing Rudd. He’d refused many earlier requests from journalists to say who he’d be plumping for – even though everyone suspected he’d jump towards Rudd. But no one realised how high.
Instead of a simple dignified statement Albo – the ‘leader of the house’ – chose to make his announcement at a moment and in a way calculated to wound Gillard as severely as possible. He didn’t simply plunge the knife in; he twisted and turned before withdrawing it. Remember Gillard used to be a member of the ‘left’? Well that was their revenge. It was all very cold-blooded.
And this is the problem with family feuds. To those on the inside it all makes sense. Indeed, there’s even a fair bit of ritual performance as the participants in the fight dance around each other, posturing before the clash of arms and the bodies are dragged off. A few people, like Robert McClelland, go a step too far. He didn’t quite understand that he’ll be living in the shared-house with the PM he’s now branded a loser for the rest of his life.
The vitriol expressed was such that it’s genuinely possible that the actions of these people have been stupid enough to cripple Labor. Perhaps even burying it forever.
The shrinking union base and the arising educated service class ensure there’s plenty of room for another centre-left party to occupy the political terrain formerly dominated by Labor. And the key word in that sentence is “formerly”. Because the damage the ‘brand’ has suffered is immense.
Watching a self-appointed, paid hack like Bruce Hawker wander around dictating exactly how elected politicians should vote was vile and disgusting. Not content with destroying the party in New South Wales he now apparently wants to add his contribution to its demise at a national level. His spruiking reveals what this challenge really was, all along. A thorough fraud, preformed on the Australian people.
TS Eliot originally came up with the phrase that best marks Rudd’s government – the Hollowmen. The last words of that poem are an apposite coda. “This is the way the world ends / not with a bang but a whimper.”
There will be no return.