On Monday evening Mark Latham suggested that Kevin Rudd had maliciously sabotaged the Labor parties chances at two consecutive elections. That of itself is a fine debate to have, indeed its fair to say that Rudd’s behaviour has been consistent with someone attempting to weaken a political opponent publicly before attempting to usurp them, but Latham then summarily dismissed the suggestion that he had been guilty of any such sabotage himself. Due to his defence of the Labor Prime Minister in his famous chest beating fashion many pundits seem prepared to accept Latham’s protestations of innocence but these are arguments of convenience surely? It’s not possible that they actually believe their own words is it? Mark Latham has deliberately weakened the Labor party more often and more shamelessly than any Labor politician since Albert Field crossed the floor of the Senate in 1975 and voted with Malcolm Fraser’s Liberals to block the Whitlam Government’s supply bill.
Latham should scarcely be forgiven for his 2004 campaign much less his subsequent behaviour. In 2003 when Simon Crean resigned, a combination of Latham’s own lust for prominence and his disliking for Kim Beazley saw him seize the leadership from the hands of a man who was actually capable of winning and delivering the worst result of any opposition leader since 1977. His idiotic displays of chest beating machismo which were the only reason anyone had every paid any attention to him in the first place sent swinging voters scurrying into the safe embrace of John Howard while Latham left Labor a reputation for erraticism which still harms them to this day.
Not content with preventing Beazley from winning the 2004 election, Latham then did his damndest to stop Beazley winning the 2007 election too. With the release of his psychotic diaries in which he libelled half the shadow cabinet and his loutish performances in the press Latham denied positive coverage to a Labor opposition which was desperately trying to apply some scrutiny to Howard after the fourteen month piggyback Latham’s leadership had given him. In fact it was a combination of Latham’s extra parliamentary buffoonery and destabilisation from his old parliamentary mates like Laurie Ferguson, Rod Sawford and…oh Julia Gillard which put Beazley in a sufficiently vulnerable position to be toppled by Rudd in late 2006. But here’s where the real sabotage kicks in, as Rudd seemed headed for an extraordinary victory who should rear their head in the Australian Financial Review just weeks out from the election but the prodigal Latham. What did he have to write about? How awful John Howard was? How important it was to vote Labor? No, Latham decided to give the nation a polite warning that Kevin Rudd had “secret plans” which they should all be weary of, that he was not all that he seemed. It’s difficult to interpret this little performance from Latham as anything but a blatant attempt to undermine Labor’s chances of victory in 2007.
To be fair though, we all make mistakes, perhaps the self anointed voice of Western Sydney was indulging himself in one last tantrum and thereafter he would get on board. Not a chance, in 2010 we saw Latham resurface as the new face of Sixty Minutes. Surely this time, with the polls deadlocked and all, Latham would use his media platform to produce a rallying cry to the party faithful and make an urgent plea to swinging voters not to vote for Tony Abbott? No, instead he advised them to vote invalidly. Not since Billy Hughes had a former leader of the Labor Party publicly asked voters not to vote Labor at the upcoming election yet Latham did just that and now has the temerity to return to the scene claiming to have some suggestions about how Labor might improve itself in the future.
Incidentally the apparently rehabilitated Latham hasn’t been using his profile to get the word out that Tony Abbott should not be Prime Minister, he would never do something so conventional as that, no, his way of assisting the ALP is to reduce the chances of the party drafting to the leadership the one individual whom opinion polling has consistently shown would be capable of winning the upcoming election.
This is the man who said asylum seekers have a fundamental contempt for the rule of the law, the reason he speaks so lengthily about personal values is because a complete and utter inability to understand much less embrace social democratic values. He is a parochial lout who came from a Labor area, had he been raised in the Shire he could have just as easily performed the role now performed by Scott Morrison. Labor should stop paying attention to his half baked theories about Labor reform and social capital, they represent not the well digested theories of a gifted academic but the spontaneous thought bubbles of an inept politician who was once given too much authority and to this day cannot reconcile himself to the fact that he and he alone was the reason it all went wrong.