So Mark Latham anoints Julia Gillard as his No. 1 politician in these pages yesterday. Which is nice, but yet another mixed message from Mark. Why, for example, did he leave Gillard high and dry in January, abandoning her as his replacement when he had the capacity to give her a shot at the leadership?

When Latham walked out of parliament after his tsunami breakdown, he virtually handed the leadership to Kim Beazley. By hanging on to the job just a little longer, Latham would have given Gillard a chance to get the numbers to vigorously contest the leadership. At the least, she could have mounted a strong challenge for the deputy’s slot.

As it was, Latham and Gillard had done the numbers in November, and come up with a possible 39 caucus votes for her as part of a private succession plan, as Latham records in his Diaries.

So when Latham abruptly quit, no-one was more surprised than Beazley, who realised that had Latham hung in until the middle of this year, his supporters could have engineered a handover to exclude Kim. But the timing meant there was no alternative to the man Latham accused of running a smear campaign against him.

Certainly, Gillard has attracted envy amongst her colleagues in the Left and for her high media profile. Latham records in his diary that Left heavies Faulkner, Evans, Macklin and Albanese abandoned Gillard after the October election, vetoing her bid for the shadow Treasury job. He reckoned that “Gillard would be better off leaving those losers behind.”

Gillard’s reaction over the past nine months has been to put her head down and support Beazley. Loyalty which she might have mistakenly expected from Latham, but which has been noted by Labor’s leadership and her supporters in the media.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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