(Image: AAP/Private Media)

Oh dear. Be still my beating heart. With yesterday’s “Yes I loved him, but I’ll never speak to him again” front-page story, the Gladys Berejiklian affair has officially jumped the bedpost and gone from political soap opera to full Mills and Boon.

The NSW Premier gave her first interview since the scandal erupted a week ago, but The Sunday Telegraph exclusive was with the paper’s gossip writer Annette Sharp. That says it all really. It’s a cynical and desperate piece of spin.

Sharp writes that the “romantically inexperienced politician” is “shattered”; she’s “shedding bitter tears in private” and “paying a painful price” for “ loving and trusting” disgraced MP Daryl Maguire, the man she had to sack “brutally” over corruption allegations in 2018.

The cringeworthy story was complete with a photo of the doe-eyed premier in jeans but still with her signature jacket. “I’ve given up on love,” she declared.

So what exactly did we learn from all the dross? She loved him. She thought they could be married even though she also said the relationship wasn’t of “sufficient status” to tell even her closest family before her sensational appearance at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing last Monday.

It’s not clear if she was so obsessively private that she did not trust them with her secret, or whether she was just embarrassed that Dazza might not exactly be the Prince Charming they expected for their Glad.

Again she skirted around the grubby details of exactly what transpired in private between them, stating only “it wasn’t a traditional type of relationship”.

But her attempts to avoid the word “intimate” were undermined by the paragraph where Sharp wrote that “according to her, [it] became something more around 2015 when the pair became intimate”.

It’s clear the piece, presumably brokered by Berejiklian’s media director, former Seven reporter Sean Berry, aimed to exploit female sympathy and the “poor Gladys” narrative to divert attention away from the broader issue of corruption.

Conveniently, The Sunday Tele story was accompanied by a YouGov poll claiming that women believe she has done nothing wrong.

What next? An #IStandWithGlad” campaign by the Murdoch press which has traditionally been unsympathetic to Berejiklian as a woman, a moderate and a mate of Malcolm Turnbull?

Scott Morrison was hardly a huge fan either, and her superior PR during the summer bushfire crisis only exacerbated tensions and claims of undermining between the two offices. (Some Canberra staffers were even rumoured to have nicknamed her “Anne Frank” for her resemblance to the famous photo of the teen Nazi victim).

When a second disaster hit, the PM learned to publicly laud her popular efforts, even though he was a tad tardy to #StandWithGlad this week. He must have seen those polls, because within a day he came to the defence of our damsel in distress.

To be fair, not all the fairytales yesterday were being spun on the Lib side.

On the same day, the rival Nine Sunday paper The Sun-Herald featured an opinion piece by former Labor premier and now Senator Kristina Keneally using feminism in her call for Berejiklian to resign.

“I have walked this path,” declared Keneally.

Indeed she has — all the way to the ICAC witness box. Even though ICAC accepted Keneally’s evidence that her actions stopped attempted corruption by Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi, she is still dogged by her close political ties to the two power brokers.

The current premier continued the pitiful “poor Gladys” performance on radio this morning: “I wasn’t experienced in dating”, “privately there were tears”, “he wasn’t even my boyfriend”.

It might have worked for now, with #poorGladys trending on Twitter this morning. But for how long?

This article was updated on October 20, 2020.

Peter Fray

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