After Crikey expressed regret at publishing Mark Latham’s Last Tango in Paris reference to his 1988 fling with Sunday Telegraph editor Jeni Cooper, one journalist emailed through the following: “The idea of someone from The Sunday Telegraph getting upset about their
‘private life’ being made public is just too funny for words. The only
narcissism here is the hide of anyone working for Rupert Murdoch to
complain about anything.”

Indeed, you would think a lot of female journalists would have second
thoughts working for a company that profits extensively from running
page three girls in the world’s largest selling tabloid. However, it is
also worth looking back at what Jeni Cooper published about Mark Latham
in 2004. Try these for size:

The Sunday before last year’s Federal election saw the paper splash with a Glenn Milne page one beat up “Latham’s tax dodge”.

The Milne lie was nailed by Laurie Oakes a few hours later. With Howard
banging on about it during his Sunday interview, the Sphere of
Influence retorted: “Well, if you say that he’s dodged the question in this morning’s newspaper, if you read page one of the Sunday Telegraph
that’s the case. But if you read through to page 104, which I suppose
most people won’t, you find that what he actually said was that he was
prepared to give a commitment of no tax increases apart from those he’s
announced in the campaign. That’s not dodging it.

Then we had a Sunday Telegraph page one Lincoln Wright special on July 4 last year which included the following:

Meanwhile, friends of the Opposition Leader’s former wife, Gabrielle Gwyther, released potentially damaging details of their troubled marriage of seven years. They said Ms Gwyther had felt intimidated by her husband and had left her Sydney home when Mr Latham secretly went on a holiday break with Janine Lacey (sic), his new girlfriend and now wife, at Christmas, 1997.

A spokesman for the Opposition Leader last night said Ms Gwyther had given many interviews making false claims against Mr Latham. He said Mr Latham had responded to these in the past and did not intend to do so again.

The same edition carried the following from Glenn Milne on page 9:

Allegations about Mark Latham’s treatment of his first wife, Gabrielle, threaten to derail the Labor Leader’s run for The Lodge.
Gabrielle Gwyther has told family friends of less savoury aspects of her ex-husband’s temper.

Ms Gwyther’s comments became public as Channel Nine’s Sunday program prepared to air what it billed an “explosive” Mr Latham profile. It was that profile – which Mr Latham refused to co-operate with – which reignited inquiries about his personal life.

Ms Gwyther was happy to assist last week,
giving journalists the background on her failed marriage. Her
involvement will only add to the pre-election volatility of national
politics, with Labor pollsters nervously watching what happens to Mr Latham’s support among women.

Then there’s the claim – denied by the Opposition Leader – that he
king-hit a fellow Labor member while on Liverpool City Council.
Over the past 48 hours, there has also been fevered speculation in
Canberra about the existence of a raunchy “buck’s night” video
involving Mr Latham.

Political insiders have always been aware of rumours about Mr Latham’s attitude to women, which he has always vehemently denied.
Running for the prime ministership means your private life inevitably belongs to the nation. Fairly or unfairly, Mr Latham is undergoing this test by fire.

No wonder Latham now believes that all’s fair in love and war when it
comes to Jeni Cooper. That material was a disgrace and she has never
recanted or expressed any regret.

Finally, it should also be pointed out that the Peter Rees who was quoted
attacking Latham in Crikey on Tuesday is a former member of the press gallery who was TheSunday Telegraph’s Canberra correspondent in the mid-1990s.

Rees is famous in government circles for once saying “I’ll do you and
I’ll do in the PM” if a press secretary didn’t deliver some comments
from John Howard on Princess Diana for a Sunday Telegraph
special edition when it was still only believed she was injured in that
fateful Paris car crash. In recent years he has got by working on
projects for Tim Fischer, but his bully boy tactics are remembered by
plenty.

Peter Fray

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