“Australia prides itself on being a classless society. It is certainly the most egalitarian I have worked in. The belief that everyone should be given a ‘fair go’ runs deep, but at the same time there exists a very powerful sense of mateship, of male values and a male-inscribed culture. And it is the tension between these two characteristics of Australian life that is the backdrop to the abrupt end this week to Julia Gillard’s prime ministership.”

It’s hard to disagree with John McTernan, the snappy Scot shipped to Australia to shape Julia Gillard’s image, who mused about his stint on the Australian political landscape to the motherland in The Telegraph overnight.

Gillard, he says, is the best “parliamentary performer of her generation” who energised women by calling out misogyny and “lifting a cloud in their society”:

“Gillard has faced serial abuse as a woman on a scale I believe is unprecedented in modern politics. I know that the phrase ‘The Iron Lady’ was coined by the Russians as an insult to Margaret Thatcher, but it became a mark of their admiration. That negative, corrosive, anti-woman rhetoric that Gillard endured for so long has damaged Australian politics, and public opinion.

“… she became a lightning rod for deep-rooted misogynist forces in society. As a politician she was more than a match for the men around her. If Sir Alex Ferguson was picking a team of premier league world politicians, she would be there in the starting line-up.

“The irony is that, though she could have done so, Gillard never sought to gain advancement in her career by playing on being a woman. She ended up reaping all the disadvantages and none of the benefits.”

Which is well said. But the examination of the failure of Gillard — at least in the eyes of the majority of voters, and eventually the majority of the caucus — must go further. There was an ugly undercurrent of s-xism to the criticism of Gillard, no doubt. But there was also a botched communications campaign which failed dismally to sell the strengths of the woman and the positives of her agenda. A campaign orchestrated by McTernan.

If he’s now going to offer himself as a commentator on the Gillard years, he should tell the whole story.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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