Mark
Latham’s final insight into his fall sums up the state of mind of
Labor’s loner: “In the circumstances, things turned out quite well,” he
writes in an email to biographer Bernie Lagan.

“People
got to see a glimpse of how Carr, Beattie and Gallop are A-Grade
ar*eholes. All their provincial bluster and posturing made no
difference to anything. Never does.”

“The media had to sit in the heat and report a load of rubbish. And Labor got the leader it truly deserves…”

Latham’s
reaction is such an extreme male approach to life – externalise the
failures and internalise the successes. Most move beyond that when a
little maturity comes along. Not yet Iron Mark it seems.

“Lagan spent a year on the inside with Mark Latham,” says the blurb for Loner – Inside a Labor Tragedy.
But Latham all but cut off contact with the author after his crushing
election defeat last October, restricting communication largely to a
few emails.

While Beazley brings balance to the Labor
leadership, Lagan reminds us that Latham – for his erratic behaviour,
catastrophic poor judgments and refusal to take advice – stood for
something. Even if it was a modified form of Clinton guru Dick Morris’s
“triangulation.”

His bold tactic of taking on Howard on
“social” issues and leaving the economy to the government may have
ultimately played into his opponent’s hands, and left him vulnerable to
an interest rate scare. But few electors would have been confused about
what Latham stood for.

Lagan reveals the weird lengths Latham’s
advisers went to in their attempts to flesh out his economic
credentials. He refused spin doctor Bruce Hawker’s attempts during the
election campaign to get him to sign a bizarre letter promising to
stand down as prime minister if he didn’t maintain a budget surplus. He
did, however, allow himself to be photographed signing a giant pledge
to keep interest rates low.

Beazley, meanwhile, has yet to
imprint his personality on the electorate, apart from his image as a
hearty and reliable captain of the 2nd XI. And we await the Latham
diaries to fill in more of the Latham rollercoaster, and ignite fresh
unrest within Labor ranks.

Peter Fray

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