You meet some real f*ckwits in politics. Take this guy, right. I coin a name for him, a great f*cking nickname, something every-f*cking-body uses – and what’s the f*cker do? He f*cking doesn’t give me a f*cking namecheck in his f*cking diaries! Well, f*ck you, “Iron Mark”…

Sorry. I’ve been asked to offer some sober reflections on The Latham Diaries. Who wouldda thunk it? Grub Street in Green Valley. Mark Latham is keeping alive the 200-year-old tradition of scandalous pamphleteering. It looked as if it was dead, but in less than a decade we’ve had Julie Burchill’s Diana and now The Latham Diaries.

Back in the golden age of Grub Street, who said “Publish and be damned!”? That’s right. A politician. The Duke of Wellington. The Iron Duke. He didn’t sook up when Harriette Wilson made up yarns about what he got up to down at The Holy Grail. Neither has Iron Mark.

What about our own Grub Street? John Norton, parliamentarian and publisher of Truth, and his mates? Wild Men of Sydney? Could Norton have remade the Labor party while writing for the Fin and the Telegraph simultaneously?

And look at Alan Clark. This toff quits politics p*ssed off that he never made cabinet, that his colleagues didn’t know talent when they saw it and publishes his diaries, chokkas with stories Dave Penberthy would die for, and what happens? The bloke becomes a living national treasure. He goes back into parliament in the safest seat in the country. The diaries end up on TV.

There’s an idea. Iron Mark on the big screen. Think of those long, long Steadicam shots in Goodfellas – the ones where Scorsese takes you through the backdoors, down the corridors and through the rooms where the action really happens while the voiceover tells you what only wiseguys know. Think of a shot that begins in the party room, swoops through the chamber, tracks up to the Press Gallery and down the corridors to Aussies as Latham introduces you to “Combover”, “The Governor-General”, “Jabba”, “Ab Fab” and “The Beast.”

Oh! Geez! And remember how Goodfellas ends? On the doorstep, out in the burbs with that speech to camera. “The hardest thing for me was leaving the life. I still love the life. We were treated like movie stars with muscle. We had it all just for the asking… And now it’s all over. And that’s the hardest part. Today everything is different. There’s no action. I have to wait around like everyone else… I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”

NB: In case this just seems like a jumble of references, remember that Michael Duffy tells us in Latham and Abbott how our hero quoted “Peter Ackroyd, Lewis Carroll, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli and Cicero” in the Liverpool Rugby Football Club newsletter. He was just warming up in those days. Look what happened when he really got into his stride, how it all came together. It’s all there in The Latham Diaries.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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