A civilised revolution

He's not the messiah, he's just a very naughty boy.

That was the overwhelming message of the Labor caucus on Monday to those flirting with the idea of reinstating K-Rudd as the big cheese.

Despite opinion polls consistently showing him as preferred Prime Minister, those in Canberra with a say in these matters showed him the results of the only poll that really counts; 71 votes to 31.

"Doesn't play well with others," his report card said.

And he said/she said a lot worse about each other in public. "Psychotic" and "dysfunctional" were just some of the words bandied about.

Of course the press gallery and the commentariat love nothing more than the soap opera of a leadership challenge, and at the first sniff of blood they are like a pack of circling sharks going in for the kill.

Now, apparently, is Labor's time of healing and rebuilding. The past is the past and they are "Moving Forward". Again.

Amongst all the white noise there has been some sober reflections about what is wrong with modern Labor, and although they have avoided the limelight by keeping their heads down and letting Labor tear themselves to pieces, many of the criticisms apply equally to the Liberals. (Didn't they have three leadership ballots in as many years?)

Party memberships are down and falling. Former NSW Labor minister and party historian Rodney Cavalier said on the ABC's 7.30; "In most towns and suburbs around the country there is no branch... and where there is, they are on life support."

There have been calls (mostly ignored) for some time to engage people at the grassroots level and not make them feel like fodder for handing out how-to-vote cards at election time.

The other interesting point Cavalier made was that in the past, schisms in the party have been over matters of great principle, whereas this was about nothing other than "personal hatred".

The name calling and the heightened sense of drama will probably die down for a while, but you can bet there are those (particularly within the media) who won't let Labor's leadership scab heal. They will poke at Rudd with a stick and pull his hair when the teacher's not looking, trying to get him to shout something they can use in a headline.

To put the whole sorry saga into perspective, Mungo MacCallum (Political Corrections, page 14) shares with us his intimate knowledge of Labor's most infamous and less well known dummy-spits.

We also have a comment from our local MP Janelle Saffin on page 5, who was a very public backer of Rudd's.

Disunity may be death in politics, but history says they'll probably pick themselves up off the mat again.

The whole fiasco may have all been about ego and personality, but when we think about political coups in most other countries, what we have just witnessed here was (another) very civilised revolution.

Nobody has been shot, no military law has been imposed and there are not angry mobs of people setting fire to things in the street.

It may seem childish and petty to those of us outside looking in, but in one sense the whole crazy episode shows us what a stable democracy we have here in Australia.

Now get back to class and do some work.


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