Lindsay Tanner’s recent critique of the federal Labor government makes a lot of sense. Dumping Rudd was the source of many of Labor’s problems, the current crop is reactionary and poll driven and Labor currently suffers from a perceived ideological hollowness. What surprised me however is Tanner’s revival of a long since buried furphy about the reasons for Rudd’s removal. At the time Labor were rushing to a snap election and wanted the leadership transition to be as detached from emotion as was possible so they blamed it on the polling. Tony Abbott looked like he was going to win the next election, they said, and so we had to take urgent action to kill that possibility. Some people were immediately skeptical, others initially went along for the ride but gradually it seeped out that Rudd had alienated a lot of his parliamentary colleagues and that political problems were merely a pretext for the personal reasons they removed him.
Perhaps the watershed moment in the unraveling of this myth was in February when Simon Crean went on radio to publicly blast the then Foreign minister. In a display of typical Rudd theatrics the Foreign Minister resigned from Washington and then all hell broke loose. Whilst Rudd was suspended in an airplane over the Pacific, Crean, Craig Emerson, Wayne Swan, Nicola Roxon, Tony Burke and Julia Gillard herself proceeded to grab some megaphones and starting shouting at anyone who would listen about how awful Rudd was as Prime Minister. Tanner challenges their assertion that Rudd was dysfunctional which is fine, but by the very tone of their rhetoric it becomes clear Rudd wasn’t merely cut down because of his polling. If it were all about polling then the threat of a Rudd comeback in February wouldn’t have been so frightening, Tanner’s assertion that it was a moment of “poll driven panic” is beggars belief, it was deeply personal.
All this having been said
The response from Labor types to Tanner’s critique embodies all that is wrong with the current Labor crop. Tanner was one of Labor’s most valuable assets for the better part of seventeen years and the suggestion that he is a rat for daring to dispute the wisdom of the ACTU is freakishly reminiscent of the character assassinations Julia Gillard’s ministers launched on Rudd back in February and then on the Greens in July which I lamented here. I don’t know quite how to put this but slinging vitriol at anyone who disagrees with them isn’t going to magically solve all the governments problems.
Bob Carr’s assertion that it’s too easy to write a book about what’s wrong with the Labor Party seems like a bit of an own goal.