12 March 2006

The future of the Labor Party (yes, of course it has one) part II

Like I said, Labor has a future as Australia's Whigs. It has no future as the political wing of trade unionism unless this aspect of its structure is gutted, stuffed and mounted like a dead pet. It will win Federal Government, just not while Beazley is leader (and while Howard is looking healthy and energetic: see earlier post below). It will lose a state/territory election one of these days too, but probably not this year.

Kim Beazley was never going to become Prime Minister, anyone who thought otherwise is/was a mug. It is understandable why Beazley is disgusted at the messy upheval within the Liberal Party from 1983 to about 1994, and why he'd block steps by his party down that track. The fact is that the Howard-Peacock rivalry had largely worked itself out after a decade; dead wood had been replaced by those capable of presenting as credible ministers. In the Labor Party, the messy meltdown has been avoided but so too has the prospect of change in ideas and tactics, ideas and tactics that might even appeal to a majority of voters. A federal Labor leader who acted as a "chairman of the board" to Labor Premiers/Chief Ministers would outflank Howard on the effective governance front, and stymie any Liberal revival at state level. With Carr, Bacon and Gallop gone, none of the state Premiers owe Beazley the time of day.

Beazley is Labor's Andrew Peacock. Oh sure, you have to replace the Gucci toothbrush with a bucket of KFC but the principle is the same. Party insiders hail him as Tomorrow's Man because he doesn't propose radical change or wiping anyone out, and ascends to leadership through patronage with neither dirt nor blood under his fingernails. Once there, he is so conditioned to being a minister that the job of opposition - getting people to think about the way they are governed in an entirely new way - is beyond him, which suits the incumbent government just fine. John Howard has no reason to be afraid that Beazley will take his job. The 1998 election was more amazing than scary for the Liberals.

None of the changes of government in 1949, 1972, 1983 or 1996 was achieved by "holding the government to account". Better to supplant the current government and lambast the survivors with outrageous and well-documented perfidy from the perspective of office. Beazley's high ratings always vanish when folk are confronted with an actual ballot paper.

Nobody joined the Labor Party in order to deregulate the economy yet that was by far the most important policy of the Hawke Government, Labor's longest-serving and most successful. People did join the Labor Party in order to ban uranium mining, but this didn't happen. Nobody joins the Labor Party, or any other party for that matter, to force change upon their parliamentary representatives, unless they wish to replace those representatives with themselves. People generally join a political party as a kind of supporters' club. Membership is an indication that you support what that party's leadership is doing in office.

The very idea that sad old clowns like Rod Cavalier might rally the Labor faithful to the aid of their party is ridiculous. Cavalier was a political staffer before entering (State) Parliament, where he obsessed about polls and press more than policy and was bundled out with a pension. The idea that someone from Labor's gamekeeping classes should have credibility as the poachers' spokesman shows how gullible journalists such as James Carleton and Alan Ramsey can be. There is no good reason why anyone should take time out to join the Labor Party. Your work, family life, recreation, or social activity which has real if long-term benefits is much more important than getting a card which says you're a member of the ALP. Everything else is more important than signing a membership book and ensuring dues are paid. Being a member of the ALP is a waste of time - except, perhaps, if you want to become a politician. Even so, you'd only do that as a stepping stone to a career of real substance in PR.