Helen Razer's recent angry excoriation of the Left -- for, among other things, its "conspicuous stupidity" and "cheesy individualism" -- reminded me of the anger and frustration I experienced some years earlier sitting in an auditorium, listening to a speech given by one of the parliamentary Left’s best and brightest, Lindsay Tanner.

When Tanner entered Parliament in 1993, he was hailed as a progressive conviction politician with the potential to lead the ALP. Here was a "thinker" with an obvious intelligence, charisma and eloquence. He wrote books. He was articulate. At times throughout his political career, journalists would almost fawn. In 2009, I attended the John Button Memorial Lecture to hear Tanner, the then-finance minister, give the keynote address.