The news just gets worse for the Labor leader.
Forget Elvis sightings. The new game is spotting Iron Mark. It sure gives a whole new meaning to “Where’s Wally?”.
How long ago was it that we first speculated that he suffered from a dose of the Docs? Well, it seems certain that Mark Latham is going to replace Evatt as Labor’s worst ever leader.
Last week we said Latham was rooted. We were right. In fact, Latham has been lucky most of the commentariat are still on leave. He would have gone a thorough working over before now.
After the election, we commented on the remarkable resemblance between Latham and the comic strip loser Dilbert. That was physical. Psychologically, he’s more like Mad magazine’s Alfred E Neumann. They seem to share the same approach to life – “What, me worry?”
Last night, when ABC Radio’s What The Papers Say previewed today’s Sydney Morning Herald yarn, the phone lines started burning up – even though it was almost midnight.
That afternoon, AAP reported Labor heavies expected to learn more about Latham’s condition later in the week.
“Mr Latham remains under doctors orders to rest after suffering his second attack of pancreatitis,” the wire said.
“Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd and acting leader Senator Chris Evans have been handling the opposition’s response to the tsunami aid effort.
“Senator Evans said Mr Latham was expected to learn the results of his latest round of medical tests this week, but it was still unknown how ill he was.
Bob Carr was also forced to defend Latham yesterday. How does he feel?
The Sydney Morning Heraldreport that the Opposition Leader “stayed at a luxury resort on the Central Coast last week while Labor leaders insisted he was too ill to make a statement on the sunami disaster” is a bigger letdown to his party than the election result.
Labor’s credibility was shot to bits on October 9. Latham has finished the job off – and his leadership, too.
One caller to ABC talkback this morning had this to say: “I just wonder whether the Labor Party has already decided that he’s no longer going to be leader, so he says stuff you, I’m not going to work anymore.”
There’s been a story no one’s wanted to touch that on election night Latham threw an almighty tantie and locked himself up in his bunker – that he wouldn’t even talk to his dear old mum.
The Daily Telegraph hints today that he’s now not on speakies with his colleagues:
“Doctors have ordered Mark Latham be completely cut off from his senior leadership team during the tsunami crisis to aid his recovery from pancreatitis.
“The Labor Party is now in the extraordinary situation where its leader is not talking to his senior colleagues handling its response to the biggest natural disaster to hit our region in a generation.”
And it looks as if the Tele’s leader writers have been reading Crikey:
“The enormity of the death and ruin has prompted a new era of dialogue and empathy for the wellbeing of our closest Asian neighbours.
“The nation has been on a journey of whole-hearted emotion demonstrated by a surge of individual donations like nothing before ever seen.
“Amid all this, the Federal Opposition has been a no show. It has been AWOL at a time of collective reckoning.
“Leader Mark Latham is said by advisers to be sick with another bout of acute pancreatitis. He was apparently too ill to even get out of bed and draft a message of sympathy in the week afterwards as the death toll climbed.
“While it must be said it is hoped he has a speedy recovery, it is extraordinary that his senior Labor colleagues were unaware of Mr Latham’s latest health scare until well into the New Year.
“In his place, the likes of mystery man Chris Evans, a senator from Western Australia, have been trotted out as acting leader to utter the occasional grab of no moment.
“Prime Minister John Howard has won universal praise as the compassionate statesman, responding decisively and generously to the crisis.
“An opportunity for Labor to be viewed as a bipartisan player at a time of humanitarian crisis was squandered.
“Mr Latham, obviously still wounded by the October election flogging, is at serious risk of being yet another casualty of the tsunami.”
The Labor frontbenchers who have stuck their heads up this morning have been interesting.
Kevin Rudd used all the diplomatic skills he learned during his DFAT days when he turned up on AM this morning, saying he was “unaware” of the SMH report – and adding that where one chose to recuperate was a “matter for yourself”.
Anthony Albanese didn’t. He went in hard on the ABC in Tassie: “I think that it is important that political leaders show leadership in their personal lives as well – the idea that because you have got a political position you should ignore what your doctor says I think sends a very bad message to the Australian public.” Yowsers!
Boilermaker Bill McKell remarks: “Terrigal has never been a happy hunting ground for Labor: Eddie Obeid’s beach house (where the Terrigal faction was born) and the chaotic 1975 ALP Conference with Hawkie in his budgie smugglers. Failure to respond to the tsunami, lazing by the resort pool: well now, in the style of one of his political heroes, Richard Nixon, Latham has got his own Water-gate.”
The Boilermaker’s right. We won’t have Mark Latham to kick round much longer.