On Friday, Stephen Mayne wrote in Crikey: “The demise of the Democrats remains Crikey’s biggest contribution to Australian politics and it is worth reflecting on how it happened…”
Bullsh*t Stephen. As you well know, the Democrats general membership voted for the parliamentary leader. After the GST deal was struck, the party voted for Stott Despoja over Lees in the leadership ballot automatically held after the subsequent federal election. It is called “democracy” Stephen.
Anyway, Lees couldn’t accept it, white-anted Stott Despoja’s leadership, resigned from the Democrats but kept the seat (thus breaking a written undertaking against doing just that), and formed her “Progressive Lees” party. Charming way to behave.
By the way Stephen, you failed to disclose in your article that you endorsed and supported Lees’ Progressive Alliance in the 07/10/2004 edition of the Crikey email. Oh and all this “if only Natasha had not been born, all would be well” cr*p is just stupid.
A little history… previous thwarted wannabe Democrat leaders have followed the same path as Lees. John Siddons and Janet Powell both did pretty much the same thing — resigned from the Democrats, kept hold of their Senate seats, formed their own little boutique parties… and crashed and burned at the very next election.
This time however, it was different. The ferocity of Andrew Murray’s (among others) public attacks on the Democrat membership (for example, referring to them as “boils”) and the sustained public attacks on Stott Despoja were a big factor in the overall demise. It highlighted a gulf between some of the Senators who saw themselves as high-flying deal-doing pollies, and a majority of the general membership who saw the Democrats as representing something idealistic and different — maybe naïve but there you have it. I think the general public may have seen it the same way.
After the GST deal and witnessing Howard gloating and Lees grinning like a cheshire cat over the fact that most stuff was about to cost 10% more, the Democrats were no longer keeping the bastards honest; they had become bastards themselves. Bye bye raison d’ȇtre.
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I don’t believe that putting Brian Greig in as temporary leader instead of Aden Ridgeway was the big issue Lees says it was. When the subsequent membership ballot for the leadership was held, it was easily won by Andrew Bartlett. Ridgeway didn’t even nominate. Diddums. As for lamenting Ridgeway’s loss to the Senate, Howard made him look like a bit of a goose over the Constitutional preamble business during the Republic referendum. I seem to recall even the pages of Crikey saying as much.
Face it Stephen, the majority of Democrat members were more aligned to the Stott Despoja/Bartlett view of the world rather than the Lees/Murray/Mayne view. The leadership ballot results spoke loud and clear. You don’t have to like it, but it is silly to pretend it was otherwise.
And don’t flatter yourself Stephen; you and Christian Kerr didn’t kill the Democrats. We (the Senators, staffers and general members) killed ourselves. Slowly, publicly and with a lot of blood and gore. Crikey was merely a loud eager-beaver Greek chorus thingy on the sidelines.
Senators Lees, Murray and Cherry et al (with prior examples Kernot, Powell and Siddons) had decided they were politicians first and Democrats second. The membership wanted Senators who were Democrats first, and politicians second. So it burst apart at the seams and all that remains are memories and a stain on the carpet.
May it Rest in Pieces.