John Roskam, executive director at the Institute of Public Affairs, writes:
came Latham’s version of ALP history. That was followed by a response
from ALP revisionists. Next will inevitably come the counter-revision.
In around a week we will forget the stories of what happens in
Canberra’s nightclubs when politicians and the media drink together,
and we’ll start to ponder what, if anything, can be taken seriously
from Latham’s claims about Labor and Australian politics.
the ALP and its factions are poisonous but are they more so than in
every other political party? The only way of avoiding
factions/groupings/personal followings in a political party is to have
a party membership of one person.
Yes, politics is personal and
at times nasty, but is the gossip, innuendo and rumour that Latham was
subjected to any different from what every other political leader has
had to endure? And (as Barry Jones said on The 7:30 Report last
night – in one of his utterances that was actually decipherable) what
occurs in a political environment is not very different from business,
or sport or other sorts of high-profile activities.
all of this, one of Latham’s important points (and something which lots
of others have said as well) is that political parties are at risk of
becoming out of touch with their members and with the electorate.
of the results of shrinking party memberships is that party
organisations have become easier to control by the factions. Mass-based
parties, as both the ALP and the Liberal Party once were, are
unpredictable, difficult to organise and require day-to-day management
on a scale that these days is probably not feasible. Unless the purpose
is to branch-stack, there’s actually little incentive to grow party
membership, and no point for anyone to join a political party (unless
they want pre-selection).
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Latham’s suggestion of party-wide
plebiscites to pre-select MPs, and even to determine party policy, has
merit. The tragedy is that it might get lost in the stories of who did
what to whom at the Holy Grail.