The Rev Cleophus James knows the ALP very well and is not happy with the fruit cakes and single issue activists infesting the party.

What has amused me over the course of the last months with the Kirby allegations, Children overboard stuff and even the Hollingworth debacle has been just how irrelevant it has been to the average punter. Howard and the Libs remain well ahead in the polls. The press has become almost completely detached from the teeming masses and this includes your correspondent, the rest of the Crikey team and I would hazard a guess, almost all of the subscribers and most of the web site readers.

I would suggest that there has been a complete shift in the political landscape that has been almost ignored over the course of the last few years.

The traditional left-right divide based along economic lines is almost irrelevant. The traditional left has largely surrendered its ground with only scattered resistance. Senior figures of the national left of the ALP for instance agreeing that capitalism and free markets are the go.

The great, almost sole, political/ideological divide is a social policy divide. The press and most of the political establishment and middle and upper classes are on the left pro abortion, euthanasia, gay rights, blah blah blah while the great majority of the working classes, older people and small but significant sections of the political and media establishment are on the right (obviously largely opposed to those issues mentioned above).

The reason that the Prime Minister and his minions are able to do so well is that a large chunk of the punters agree with them and that leads me to the left of the ALP and people like Lindsay Tanner and Carmen Lawrence. They just don’t (or they refuse to) get it. The punters don’t like them or what they stand for. They don’t like the ‘activist’ types they hang around with.

Both have rabbited on in public recently about the need for more ‘activists’ within the ALP and suggested the formation of ‘single issue’ sub branches.


The punters don’t like the single issue groups. Perhaps Tanner et al might like to have a think back to the 1996 massacre we suffered (thanks again for the part you played in that Carmen) and remember the Liberals slogan “for all of us”. It captured the feeling of the times. The punters thought that the government was being run by single issue groups. That minorities got everything at the expense of those in the mainstream the mainstream that they all perceived themselves to be.

Remember when Pauline asked “well, where do I go?” that was a question that people were actually asking themselves, they felt that disconnected from the government and the ALP. Irrespective of thoughts on Hanson, by voting for her, people were endorsing her sentiments. They wanted less attention paid to the single issue groups and more paid to the everyday stuff that worried them. They wanted a PM less enchanted with the Archibald prize and more interested in the price of milk. Carmen and Lindsay want more of the people that drove the “fibros in the Blue Mountains ” away to have more of the say within the party. That is just a recipe for disaster.

We need more brickies, chippies, sparkies, tradesmen in general, labourers, hairdressers, clerks, bank tellers, train drivers and on and on. We need more real people not a few more basket weavers from Balmain. The only tradesman that I know of in the Parliament (and my knowledge is deficient) is Laurie Brereton who is an electrician.

Tanner’s right when he says our member base is too narrow but silly to suggest that we should remedy it by getting ‘activists’ into the party. Presumably he means left single issue type activists. In a funny way it has parallels with the Christian Churches. The more “progressive” a church gets, the fewer people attend, conversely as it returns to orthodoxy so the congregations return to the pews. The left don’t like to admit that much.

When Tanner wrote “the central issue is not the marketing, but the product. The product is not just the policies, it is us.” He was right in a way, but he has failed to take it to its logical extension and really have a think about what it is about the party that they don’t like it’s the Carmen Lawrences, Lindsay Tanners, Kim Carrs, Jenny Macklins and worst of all Joan Kirners of the party that they don’t like. This is not to say that these people don’t have their fan clubs. They do, but most of them are leaving the party or already vote green or democrats.

Tanner makes a later point: “We do little to attract members to join, we offer them virtually no fulfilment or influence” and he has a point but I put it to you that the same people that Tanner et al want to whack into the party activists and single issue freaks are the same people already driving normal people away.

Imagine this. You’re a normal sort of a bloke. You reckon the front bar of a pub is as good a place as any on a Friday arvo/night and eventually after nagging you to join for the last 2 years, your union organiser finally convinces you to join the ALP. So after being bombarded with crap mail-outs for 6 months you finally get a chance to get to a Sub-Branch meeting. You’re a bit late because you had to put the kids to bed and as you walk in the door, some fruitcake with a nose ring is rabbiting on about a motion along the lines of: “that this Sub-Branch condemns the blatant killing of Minke Whales by the Japanese for whale meat.” Tell me how that branch has any relevance to you. Tell me why you would go back to listen to that crap for two hours ever again.

Single issue activist types are driving normal people away from the party. They got rid of a huge chunk of our support in 1996 and have successfully kept them away for the last two elections. We need fewer ‘activists’, not more.

The funny thing is Lindsay Tanner came from the Federated Clerks Union. If he was able to convince a few of his former members to join their local sub-branch he would be doing a lot more for the party than his stupid ideas about “single issue” sub-branches ever would. Sometimes I think the Left are actually afraid of real people.

As for Carmen Lawrence, well, I’ve said enough about her for the time being.

I hope you all had a safe and Holy Easter.

God Bless.

Rev. Cleophus James.

The Rev can be contacted at: [email protected]