Tuesday, 13 March 2012

SPARE A THOUGHT FOR THE LOSERS (Spectator leader March 3)

While the victors prance from one after-party shindig to the next, reveling in the seductive glow of their glittering success and affirmation of their new-found popularity, spare a thought for the losers. For those for whom there is no limo ride home, no cheering throngs to greet them at the door, no newspapers hanging on their every word.

We refer of course to the dejected, disappointed, demoralized runners-up in the greatest drama yet to grace our TV screens, last Monday’s long awaited, highly anticipated and ultimately anticlimactic star-studded ego-fest known as “The Great Labor Party Train Wreck”, or more simply, “Kevin, the Downfall.”

It was a spectacle to remember for many years to come, as they all turned up, in their most fetching finery, strutting the red carpet to flashing cameras and breathless reportage.

There was Antony Albanese, blabbing his way to the podium, only to find out he'd licked the wrong envelope. Who can forget his hectoring performance only six months ago in front of his own constituents, as he berated little old ladies and bullied those who had dared speak out against a carbon tax? How the mighty have fallen, as he broke down in front of the cameras, wrestling with his inner demons and his addiction to backing the wrong horse. Only a few weeks ago, he drew guffaws for his pathetic rendition of a serious politician, a performance movie buffs were quick to spot was a blatant plagiarism of Michael Douglas. Clearly, this is one star whose best days are behind him, with his latest vanity project –the battle flick Tory! Tory! Tory! – struggling to find any backers.

And what to make of the tragic, haunted figure of Chris Bowen? Forced to play so many different roles with equal sincerity over the past twelve months, hopping from one ludicrous “solution” to another, his credibility and integrity have now collapsed to the point where audiences can no longer suspend their disbelief.

The comic interlude was left to veteran funny man Rob Oakeshott, for whom, alas, the laughs now seem to have dried up. Attempting to reinvigorate the crowd, and unsuccessfully reprising his famous “Kingmaker” role, Rob’s gag about Malcolm Turnbull taking over the leadership of the Liberal party fell completely flat, leaving him standing in the spotlight to an awkward, embarrassed silence. Rob – whose rambling and incoherent 2010 acceptance speech for the tedious docudrama “Ugly in its Beauty” clocked in at an extraordinarily dull twenty seven minutes - is not expected to return next year, or to be heard of ever again after the next election.

Hogging the red carpet in the run up to the big night, the two veteran entertainment writers Peter Hatchet-Job and Professor Van Nonselence, both of whom had confidently predicted that Rudd would sweep the awards, were nowhere to be seen in the aftermath, clearly not invited to any of the dazzling celebrations. “Kevin Rudd will become the leader, not because he's made a compelling case but because Julia Gillard cannot hold the confidence of her caucus,” wrote Hatchet only ten days ago, in what has now become a collector’s piece, along with Van Nonselence’s: “A move to Rudd by Albanese… would give Rudd the momentum he needs to create an inevitability about changing leaders.”

The bravest loser, who walked home empty handed after being expected to grab the Peoples’ Award for his brutal portrayal of a ruthless backstabber in the epic “Ides of March” flick, the popular heart-throb Kevin Clooney, tried to put on a humble face, but the punters weren’t fooled. “'I dedicate myself to working fully for (Ms Gillard's) re-election as the prime minister of Australia. I don’t hold grudges,” he said, in one of the few moments of genuine comedy during the entire show.

Scurrying away from centre-stage before he was booed off, hapless Senator “Marky Mark” Arbib –producer and director of such box office disasters as “2010: An Early Election” and “Kristina the Blonde” - suddenly remembered he had a family to go home to and left the scene early. No more late night backroom deals for him, apparently.

Champagne corks were popping, meanwhile, at the lakeside home of the Queen of High Drama, Julia Gillard herself, who – with her personal stylist and hairdresser boyfriend on her arm – was being lauded for her brilliant portrayal of Australia’s first ever female Prime Minister. “It was uncanny,” said one insider, flushed with excitement. “For a full ninety minutes, you could almost believe she was the real thing.”

Sullen and depressed, forgotten by the rich and famous, ignored by the powerful and the profligate, unlamented by the media and the spin doctors, the night’s biggest loser was nowhere to be seen backstage. We refer, of course, to Joe Blow, the average Australian punter, for whom the desire to vote for their own Prime Minister has now ended in tears.

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