“Pretty sloppy, Rundy.” The voice came from behind me on the Melbourne Uni stairs. Thirty years ago, in the meeting rooms above the Gerry Kitchener Sandwich Bar.

David Feeney, former Melbourne Uni House and Services Officer (co-office with Kathy Koukouvas, Jackson as became) was taunting me.

He had a right to. Days earlier, we had sacked half the student union office-bearers, a Labor Right crew, by recall referendum, setting the stage for the SRC committee to appoint an interim president.

The left had the numbers. All we needed was the vote of a rep who’d been elected by education students. They were solid, right? Someone had checked?

No one had checked. In a fug of dope smoke and Smiths LPs on high rotation, we had planned the socialist order, and hadn’t got the numbers.

The education students’ rep was got by the Right. The actual Liberals. For not much more than a Toblerone and an evening at Naughtons pub, I suspect, s/he — that’s not a gender-fluid thing, I just can’t remember a thing about them — was a lonely type.

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. We’d given the union to the actual Right (for one term. After that, the left ran the joint for years, in part because Labor were in disarray.)

“Pretty sloppy work …”

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. The taunting bit deep. We were amateur, slapdash, half-committed, theory-obsessed melancholics who didn’t even want the little power that was on offer.

The Right were like a sales reps Xmas break-up at a $20 dollar steakhouse. But they dotted the frikkin Is, I thought. They got the job done.

That day, I made a mental note. If you really can’t do this stuff, if you can’t commit, don’t do it at all. If driving to Ballarat to lobby an education student on a wet Sunday isn’t exactly what you want to do, do something else.

They have chosen the life of politics. They will always be more on point, I thought.

***

So I mean, my God. My God. This is the second time this year when there’s no alternative but to quote Andreas Baader:* “What a fucked up operation.”

Look, I suspect it will all be sorted out (narrator: “it wasn’t”). But if not, well, let’s just go through it:

  1. A once-impressive Right-wing powerbroker looks like the guy in the office who calls the boss “Uncle Vic”;
  2. Labor’s much-vaunted “machine” is fully revealed as a bunch of noobs who can’t get their forms in properly, which is just about the most left-wing thing ever;
  3. Billy Bob Shorten has been screwed over again by a man he spent years in some sort of double act with, a Melbourne political Laurel and Hardy;
  4. Turnbull has been given a crack of daylight, in otherwise unremitting night;
  5. The seat of Batman, still no dead cert for the Greens, due to its northward stretch, would likely now fall like a shonky block of High Street flats;
  6. The Greens would have a contiguous Melbourne hub, a democratic foco, from which to press further outwards. Eventually, the Melbourne and Prahran focos (foci?) would join up, bisecting Batista’s, sorry, Labor’s forces altogether; and
  7. If this chaos means the next fed election result comes right in, Labor may need the Greens to govern.

Have I missed anything? Because I am sitting here thinking, my God, my God.

There is now no bad result out of this.

For me, anyway.

Look, I am still progressive enough to always prefer Labor over the Coalition. Anytime. If Billy Bob manages to slither into the Lodge on the way to marrying a Habsburg, I will cheer the rafters down

But my God, if these goons have somehow screwed the power-pooch, then the Right has hit the same shallow rocky outcrop headfirst that poor old Harold Holt did.

Surely after a defeat out of this clown show, Labor ranks would rise up. The only thing the Right has ever been able to claim was their efficiency. And they’re worse than the student left! And we were listening to The Smiths all the way through! What’s your excuse?

STOP PRESS: It’s alright. They’re possibly going to dump Feeney and put Clare Burns in as candidate. She’s got time to run because she just lost the wholly included state seat of Northcote to the Greens after her cultural right-wing alignments and politics were revealed.

Should Labor not rebel after all that, well that would be Stockholm syndrome. That would be a party so paralysed, so unable to make a new politics for changed societies and class ensembles, that it will have more than the Greens to worry about. To right and left, it will simply start to decompose.

I don’t want to see that, actually. But it’s not my job to stop it.

*Baader was speaking of the Red Army Faction occupying of Germany’s embassy in Stockholm, intended to get Baader and others freed. Days in, the hostages taken had become supporters of their captors theories about the nature of US imperialism, and “Stockholm Syndrome” was born.

 

Peter Fray

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