Stephen Mayne asks in Wednesday’s
Crikey why people are not at each other’s throats and why they can
continue to work with their alleged detractors. The answer is simple –
what is “alleged,” by whom and with what evidence.

As an insider
for some years I can attest to inaccuracies or confabulations in
several of the instances in the book – as I was present on some of the
occasions or was briefed immediately afterwards by one or more of the
parties directly involved.

We can safely assume that there are
many others who have these direct experiences that contradict Mark’s
recollection of events. That being so, why would anyone act against
others on the basis of what is often the third and fourth hand gossip
that Latham has taken as received wisdom?

The most sensible
course is to discount all his claims and to continue to make personal
judgments about the character of those with whom one has to meet and
work – and expect that they will do likewise.

If one accepts
what Latham is now saying is a contemporaneous account of his time as
Leader (and before) the man was living a perpetual lie. He was lying to
his Party colleagues, to the Party members who had high hopes for him
as their political saviour, to the public and voters (almost half of
whom gave him their vote) and to himself – because he was untrue to
what he claims now were always his fundamental beliefs. So this was a
Machiavellian performance extraordinaire!

I prefer to see this
as something quite different. He is demonstrating now an incredibly
strong and unswaying, and to many outside observers unreasonable,
belief in his own righteousness – in himself.

Mark
certainly
hid many of his real beliefs and feelings on policy and about
individuals, but for most of his time as Leader of the Opposition he
really believed he could and would win. He also believed that when he
won he would then be able to make the changes that he now writes about
– to the Party and to society – from an unassailable position as the
“hero” Labor PM. In this, he was deluded of course – there would have
been many constraints and no unfettered power, but he could have
achieved much of his agenda.

The stress on him as he juggled an
external persona that massively conflicted with his internal belief
system would have been intense. There is never any simple cause and
effect, but that personal dichotomy no doubt contributed to the
deterioration of his physical health.

The election loss, even
if he believed a couple of weeks out that it was coming, would have
been a huge psychological blow. It was really the end, because both
physically and mentally he could no longer continue living two lives.
We are now witnessing the result of that conflation of the physical and
the psychological.

In the end he has used his diary book and the
media appearances to provide post hoc justification to himself that
rationalises the rejection by the voters of what was going to be good
for them (in his eyes their best last hope). Without this self-belief
he would find it tough to survive – and given he seems to have blown up
every possible bridge – he may yet not.

As many have said – sad,
tragic and a waste: to him, to the individuals he traduces, to his
family, to the Party that he could have helped change, and to the
community and society he claimed to have wanted to contribute to and
help move forward.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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