Aficionados of American politics know the score: you go to some three-star hotel in Des Moines to hear Republican Senator Hiram Q Peabody launch his presidential bid. Peabody has been a 30-year veteran of the ways and means committee, a party grandee and a centrist. Peabody gets to his feets and begins: "These Washington insiders have forgotten about Jesus and a little thing called the constitution. Well send me to Washington and I ..."

There's better and worse ways of doing this lurch to the side, which is then followed -- if the nomination is won -- by a return to the centre, but I would bet the beltway to a briquette no one's done it as nakedly, and ineptly, as Bill Shorten in his quest for the Labor leadership.