Monday, 23 April 2012

THE LABOR MESSIAH (Spectator Easter leader)

The search for a messiah to lead them out of the wilderness will certainly intensify within Labor ranks if not before the next election then certainly the day afterwards.

Call it the curse of Gough, but Labor, more so than any other political party, constantly seeks a mystical leader capable of inspiring the masses. Whether it be the “light on the hill” or the Tree of Knowledge, the “greatest moral challenge” or “true believers,” Labor mythology likes to imbue events and personalities with qualities above and beyond those of mere mortals.

However great the left’s heroes may or may not have been, what the last two decades has shown is that the Labor Party struggles to draw a distinction between the statesman, the showman, and the shaman.

Bob Carr was arguably a great media performer in his heyday, but the way he is being wheeled out now on every occasion and on any subject is increasingly embarrassing to watch – akin to a ham actor struggling to pull off his old stage tricks.

Bill Shorten’s frequent media appearances also have an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu about them, as he attempts to channel Bob Hawke – the pragmatic reconciler of the great divisions between the working and managerial classes. What such an act forgets is that the unions, although desperately important to the Labor Party, bear very little relevance to working Australians, other than as the butt of gags about credit cards and prostitutes.

Displaying all the warmth and empathy of Nosferatu in Clark Kent glasses, fellow ex-union boss Greg Combet also falls well short of delivering on messianic appeal. Stephen Smith is, well, Stephen Smith. Crean comes across like a contender for the next series of Grumpy Old Men.

Wayne Swan, who played Judas to Rudd’s futile attempt at messianic resurrection, clearly sees himself as a potential savior. His recent Sermon in the Monthly and attacks in the temple of public opinion on the money lenders and mining magnates were blatant pitches to the unions to support him. What he fails to understand is that the voters – particularly in the crucial Queensland seats –will never forgive his betrayal of one of their own.

Forget the blokes. Penny Wong and Nicola Roxon will be the ones to watch post-Julia.

To the spin merchants of Sussex Street, it is the spokesperson who is more important than the product they are trying to sell. The faceless men and women (surely in a progressive party such as the ALP there can be faceless women, too?) still seem incapable of understanding that it is the policies, not the politician, that ultimately triumphs.

Labor still hopes that the carbon tax – an anomalous economic “reform” born of a blatant lie and a cynical backroom deal – will be their road to salvation, as money flows into the economy by way of “compensation.” Thirty pieces of silver for each and every working family.

In all likelihood, the voters will take the money but wash their hands of the mob that gave it to them. Labor, slowly but surely, will be crucified on a cross of its own making.

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