Mark Latham’s been doing an awful lot of writing lately. As well as penning his memoirs, he’s conducted a weird correspondence with his successor, Kim Beazley. Check out the text of the letters exchanged between the two, courtesy of Iron Mark’s old mate Alan Ramsey in Saturday’sSMH.

But what of Latham’s feisty former senior adviser, Alex Sanchez? The former deputy Liverpool mayor is doing some writing of his own – albeit at a substantial discount to the mooted $150,000 his old boss is getting from Melbourne University Press. Sanchez is penning what looks supsiciously like an Agony Aunt column on the Online Opinion blog. His latest effort, published this week, bewails the tribulations of the stay-at-home dad, using a rather familiar protagonist. Writes Sanchez:

When Mark Latham resigned suddenly from politics, wanting to be left alone with his family, there was many a laugh at his expense. All of a sudden, cartoons appeared with him wearing an apron with toddlers underfoot. He was disparagingly called ‘Mr Mom’. Commentators appearing to know it all (as they do) said Latham’s decision was transitional – only until he found ‘something’. Whatever that something was, we knew it couldn’t be being a dad, because – hey that’s not what ex-politicians do, let alone male ex-politicians.

The thread from these commentators was that a big boofy bloke, let alone a former political leader, couldn’t chuck it in. Or worse still, wouldn’t last at it. Men work and that’s how they arrive at their identity. Simple. But instead we find ourselves with a bloke, sick and just as sick of his miserable workplace, leaving it all behind for his family. Instead of cheering ‘good on you Mark’, the national pastime becomes Latham spotting. Unbelievable.”

Just imagine a leading female politician leaving politics to get well and spend more time with her family? Would she be subjected to gossip and rumour as to her whereabouts? Or would she be left alone or converted as a martyr to the cause of achieving a work-family balance?

A good question, indeed, although Sanchez’s conclusion is problematic: “So instead of bagging the likes of Mark Latham, let’s congratulate him for leaving a toxic workplace and getting back to basics with his family. There is something to be said for men like Latham, who can afford to chuck it in and do so. When he was in politics, Latham spoke relentlessly of work and family. Then he had a chance to do something and did. Good one.”

It’s an interesting rationalisation for Latham’s very public melt-down – and a commendably honest assessment of Latham’s “toxic” office. But what of the “work-family balance”? Does anyone else detect the noise of a slacker bemoaning the rest of the world isn’t as lazy as him? You can check out the whole sob story, along with Sanchez’s previous efforts here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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