Christian Kerr writes:
“Never glad confident
morning again,” runs the Robert Browning poem The Lost Leader,
quoted in the House of Commons to such devastating effect at the height of the
Profumo scandal by Tory backbencher Nigel Birch.
It’s great political drama
– but it’s only drama. And that means that it’s impossible to agree with Stephen
Luntz’s observations on politics and despair in yesterday’s Crikey. Politics is all about
compromise – and compromise can very easily leave one dissatisfied.
Party politics left me
empty – but that doesn’t mean I’m not involved in politics. I know that I’m
contributing more to political debate, contributing more to political outcomes
and contributing more generally now than I ever did in my time as an adviser to
two federal cabinet ministers and a state premier.
I’m trying to use my
experience to widen public understanding of just what goes on in the corridors of
power. That’s still politics – and much more important politics than preparing
dixers and heavying journos who don’t swallow your press releases uncritically.
Luntz talks about Greg
Wilton, Nick Sherry, John Brogden and Andrew Bartlett as victims.
Wilton’s problems were
personal as much as political. Nick Sherry has bounced back. Andrew Bartlett
can and does speak for himself – but I note with dry amusement that he renamed
“The Bartlett Diaries” last year. I think he’s doing OK. Look at his comments
on Charlie Kennedy’s woes.
John Brogden’s had a miserable
time, but I can’t imagine that he won’t have some part to play in politics in
the future if he wants to. I’ve known him for more than 15 years. The
opposition leader I saw at the Liberal’s federal council meeting was a polished
political performer. He could easily parlay those skills into some public role.
Brogden’s mentor, Nick
Greiner, lost his political career unexpectedly – yet look at the position he
now occupies. He’s regarded as one of the few great premiers of the last
quarter century. And talking of premiers, we can’t forget a certain Mr Kennett.
Jeff runs Beyond Blue in his own uniquely Jeffish way, but it’s fantastic to
see a man with his talents putting his experiences to such use.
Luntz could have also
spoken about Greg Barns. He’s had his highs and lows, been chewed up and spat
out – but he’s still at it.
Then there’s Iron Mark.
He’s down, the Diaries have been dismissed as salacious slops – but I have no
doubt he has already made a significant contribution to politics and will be
able to do more to help us understand political life.
Our own Charles Richardson
made these remarks when he reviewed the Diaries for Policy magazine: “For him, as for any sane person, parties are means rather than
ends.” Absolutely. Robert Manne is usually one of the last people I’d quote,
but he hit the nail right on the head when he outlined Latham’s two significant
contributions to contemporary Australian political life in The Monthly back in
October last year: “He differed from Keating in two main ways. He was sceptical
of Keating’s tip-down centralism and his uncritical support for the welfare
state. And he realised something that Keating could not see; that his
government had been destroyed through the force of a new social condition
Latham identified as ‘downward envy’.”
Latham set himself an
impossible task by becoming leader. He is better as a sniper than a general,
picking off issues one by one than directing the whole campaign. Here’s hoping
he continues to fire his shots.
The secret isn’t to
take politics personally – because it isn’t personal. It’s about ideas.
Alexander Downer does a great confected “You’re a disgrace” act in Question
Time. He talks bollocks.
And if you’re feeling
down, forget the Browning. Take a leaf from Ted Kennedy and the speech he gave
when his presidential ambitions came crashing to the ground at the Democratic
National Convention in 1980:
May it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in
the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have special
meaning for me now:
‘I am a part of
all that I have met
Tho much is taken, much abides
That which we are, we are–
One equal temper of heroic hearts
strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’
For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those
whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the
hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.