The light on the … ?

It’s a shame Tim Blair (blog cactus at present) is still successfully ignoring the amazing Margo Kingston. Yesterday’s Web Diary piece was a monumental achievement in journalistic vacuity even by her stellar standards. Someone apparently gave Margo one of those “can do” American management books that was being thrown out with all the other old rubbish. This one was written in 1991 by some dork named William Bridges and is called “Managing transitions – making the most of change”. Margo took the opportunity to apply Bridges’s profound insights to the “transition” she hopes Simon Crean can manage from chronic whinger and loser to Labor’s new messiah.

Here’s a sample of Bridges’ wisdom:

“Psychological transition depends on letting go of the old reality and the old identity you had before the change took place,” Bridges says. Once people in the group have let go, they and the organisation go into a NEUTRAL ZONE, “the no man’s land between the old reality and the new…a time when the old way is gone and the new doesn’t feel comfortable yet.” …

“It is natural to feel somewhat frightened and confused in this no-man’s land. As the old patterns die in their minds and the new ones begin to take shape, people are assailed by self-doubt and misgivings about their leaders. Ambiguity increases, and so does the longing for answers. This is why people in the neutral zone are so prone to follow anyone who seems to know where he or she is going – which unfortunately includes troublemakers and people who are heading toward the exit.” …

“It is during the gap between the old and the new that the organisation’s systems of immunity are weak enough to let truly creative solutions emerge unhampered. Only when the old way of seeing things disappears are habit patterns broken, and a new way will emerge.”

You can see where Margo’s going with this inane psychobabble: over the cliff with Simon in the hope that her hero Loopy Latham can salvage something after the inevitable trainwreck, taking Margo with him as Opposition Press Secretary in place of the equally inept Vivian Schenker.

You can also see why Latham is bound to be impressed by Margo’s laser-like political insights. Here are a couple of her suggestions to help Simon with his “transition”, apparently drawn from her reading of Bridges’ book:

He needs to find a metaphor for the journey Labor is embarking on. Any ideas?

How about Up Shit Creek With a Teaspoon For a Paddle?

He could consider taking party members and families on a retreat, to, in the words of Bridges, “try to rebuild a sense of identification with the group and connectedness with one another”.

Presumably Margo means one of those executive retreats that dotcom management teams used to go on before they all went broke, where fabulously well-paid consultants teach obese corporate executives to climb assault walls and slide down flying foxes from a great height to build “trust” in the “team”. With a bit of luck one of Simon’s team will take the only sane option and grease the handle of the flying fox just before he gets on.

Margo’s concluding paragraph is an especially impressive achievement in meaningless verbiage:

To me, Crean’s task is to build solid, substantial foundations for a Labor win, if not at this election, then the one after. To do that, he needs to instil confidence among the party’s MPs that they’re moving towards the light at the end of the tunnel, pride that their cause is just, and energy to work hard, together, in the common cause. If he does that, he’ll have proved he’s a great leader.

Someone should remind Margo that the preferred ALP metaphor is “light on the hill”. I’ve always suspected that this is because Ben Chifley, as an old engine driver, knew that the light at the end of the tunnel is usually a freight train about to run you down.

PS – Gummo Trotsky reminds me that, according to his records, he is now the sole contestant remaining in the “How long can Tim Blair resist mentioning Margo” contest. My own records are submerged somewhere in the zipped version of the old blog that Mark Gallagher recently emailed to me (which I’ll get around to importing one of these days). If anyone else claims still to be in the running, they’d better speak up in the next couple of days otherwise I’m going to declare Gummo the winner.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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2024 years ago

My Margo Picture is better.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2024 years ago

Ken, I dunno what Gummo’s prediction was, but I said six weeks. If I’m not the winner I must be a pretty good runner-up as I recall the vast majority of entrants had little faith in Tim’s obstinacy, er resolution.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2024 years ago


If you said six weeks then you’re still in the running. I haven’t checked the exact date of TB’s resolution because his blog was down last night, but it’s only been about 4 weeks I think. So the contest continues!

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2024 years ago


As you know, both photos are from the Northern Rivers Echo. I used the one you’re now claiming credit for in my previous Margo story i.e. the one that initiated the contest. I thought I’d use this one in the follow-up for a bit of variety.

2024 years ago

If not Crean, and perhaps definitely not Latham (and he is still in the team as fullback with his socks down) then who? I share your scepticism about these ALP leaders, which in my case goes back to the Cunningham by-election. I am reasonably acquainted with the local circumstances of that by-election, but in agreement with Alan Ramsay if you cannot win a blue ribbon seat, what can you win? Beazley was right the whole lot do not connect with the electorate. Faced with a train wreck, psychobabble may be answer. (The fact that I have a need for psychobabble, in that apparently I not alone, is an interesting reflection, perhaps of our society)

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2024 years ago

I don’t know. Maybe you’re being a bit harsh Ken? Margo did offer some extraordinary insights. Take this one for instance:

“When endings take place, people get angry, sad, frightened depressed, confused,” Bridges says. “They are the signs of grieving, the natural sequence of emotions people go through when they lose something that matters to them.You find them among families who have lost a member, and you find them in an organisation where an ending has taken place.”

And they reckon Voltaire was an original thinker?

She did report that lots of people she knows are “doing that whole downsizing, chill-out thing;” maybe someone will bung her in a trunk with a bunch of remaindered management guru texts – to keep her happy – and take her with them.

Anyway, it’s moved me to pen my own advice to Simon:

“You are a child, of the Universe.
No less than the trees and the sky,
You have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
No doubt the Universe is unfolding, as it should.”