“Of all the crosses I have to bear,
the greatest is the cross of Lorraine” said Winston Churchill of his
supposed wartime ally General de Gaulle.

A year from now Mark Latham will be saying something very similar about incoming ALP President Barry Jones.

According to Barry, Labor lost the
election because it didn’t say enough about the republic,
reconciliation, immigration and the public service.

Based on this we can already determine two things about the Barry Jones presidency:

1. He will be very outspoken

2. Most of the things he says will either be useless or damaging.

Ever since he was a minister in the
Hawke Government there’s always been a great disconnect between the
real Barry Jones and the public’s opinion of Barry Jones as conveyed to
them by the media.

Real Barry was a poor minister who
achieved little in his time as Science Minister due to his inability to
sell his ideas in Cabinet and get his constituency behind him. It was
for this reason he was eventually ousted, but Barry turned himself into
a martyr and with great assistance from his mate Phillip Adams
convinced the media and the public he was Australia’s greatest minister
who was now being done over by the factions.

Barry’s defeat some years later as ALP
President prompted Kim Beazley, in a moment of weakness he will regret
to his dying day, to offer Barry the job of coming up with ALP’s
“Knowledge Nation”. At the time it seemed like a good idea – I mean,
how could he muck that up?

But he did, coming up with a policy so
obscure and obtuse senior Labor figures and staffers knew it would be a
laughing stock. They immediately set about trying to turn it into a
document that actually meant something to voters, and that meant
getting rid of the infamous “meatballs and spaghetti” diagram and the
word “cadastre” to name but two.

Barry fumed and went off to see his
mate Phil, who told him Barry was Australia’s greatest national
treasure, that no one would ever dare ridicule Barry and he should
stick to his guns and demand his paper be released unchanged.

Emboldened by Phil’s words of wisdom
Barry fronted Kim and his staff and told them that unless his paper was
released unchanged he would not attend the launch and would publicly
denounce it.

Kim was then left in the unenviable
position of either releasing a paper he knew to be a disaster and would
be ridiculed, or changing it to make it politically saleable and having
it denounced by its author as “dumbing down”. Aided by copious leaks to
the press from Barry supporting his cause, Kim caved in.

Barry and Phil later admitted they
were wrong and never expected the Government and the media to ridicule
the paper the way they did. Barry declared himself particularly upset
that David Kemp, a fellow academic, had led the charge, proving once
again that when it comes to politics Barry doesn’t have a clue.

Sometime later, the staffers in
Beazley’s office responsible for dealing with Barry were driving down a
darkened Melbourne street when a figure stepped out in front of their
car. The car braked, and just missed the figure, who, as he walked
away, was revealed to be Barry Jones himself. Both regret that they
didn’t see him just a few seconds later and as they rightly insist – no
jury would have convicted them when the real story came out.

12 months from now Mark Latham will also be regretting they missed.

CRIKEY: That last bit is over the top. These Labor boys sure do play things hard.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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