The mystery stand over person. News Limited Sunday columnist Glenn Milne tells in The Australian this morning of being stood over, not by one of the unelected Rudd spin team, but by an actual member. That makes a change. “I was warned on Saturday”, wrote Milne, “by one of the most senior – and I mean one of the most senior elected office holders in the land – that if I reported claims in a new book that Julia Gillard had been Kevin Rudd’s preferred choice as treasurer I would not be dealt with again by the Government. And to his credit, the person making those threats wasn’t Wayne Swan. At least whatever punishment is dealt out to it Brendan Nelson, even by his own side, he doesn’t behave like that. On that count I’m happy to consult the admirable script writers of The Hollowmen.” Surely it was a bit weak of Glenn not to name the culprit.

Testing the robust tolerance. Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said yesterday that Australians had a “robust tolerance” for battlefield casualties in Afghanistan but I wonder how long that will remain the case if Australian forces really are taking on a more dangerous role than they have so far. There have been 871 coalition deaths — 540 Americans, five Australians, 110 Britons, 87 Canadians, three Czech, 14 Danes, 16 Dutch, three Estonians, one Finn, 12 French, 22 Germans, one Hungarian, 11 Italians, one Lithuanian, three Norwegians, five Poles, two Portuguese, seven Romanians, one South Korean, 23 Spaniards, two Swedes — in the war on terror as of July 11, 2008, according to a CNN count. Australia certainly has been fortunate compared with the Canadians where the pressure is growing for troops to be withdrawn. In Australia there so far is bipartisan support for the Australian presence in Afghanistan apart by the two major parties although the Greens already are urging a complete withdrawal. Minister Fitzgibbon might find after a few more body bags are flown home that the end of bipartisanship comes with criticism from within his own Labor Party.

Moving towards the centre. I drew attention in Crikey during the last Australian election that in campaigns when there are only two parties product differentiation is difficult as both position themselves alongside each other in the middle of the political spectrum. The very smallest slip-ups are magnified as each side tries to convince voters that, to use the example of Harold Hotelling’s law, that their identical ice cream is actually not the same as the one being sold next door. So it is now proving in the United States where the pragmatism of Barack Obama is moving to the centre is upsetting some of the lefties who thought their man would actually embrace some of the madder notions. Obama Supporters on the Far Left Cry Foul is how the New York Times put it at the weekend.