Iron Mark’s corrosion problem

What odds Mark Latham will still be ALP leader in six months time, with all these frontbenchers voting with their feet? The cover story that he’s just clearing away the deadwood from the Hawke and Keating years certainly doesn’t apply to Lindsay Tanner or Annette Ellis (although Craig Emerson is in a different category – he seems to have simply been a Latham supporter who couldn’t muster the numbers). This is beginning to look like a major split in the Parliamentary Labor Party, on a scale that Latham is unlikely to survive.

I hope Bomber doesn’t make yet another comeback attempt. And Kevin Rudd is one of Australia’s most boring men. Personally I favour Tanner out of all the oft-touted leadership aspirants. Tanner gives every appearance of having the combination of policy vision, patience and inner steel that will be needed to unite and lead a party back into government that even Saint Gough concedes almost certainly won’t win the next election either.

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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Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Ken, it’s looking bad for Iron Mark certainly. But it will take a while to wash through. It’ll be interesting to see what effect there will be if Stephen Smith doesn’t get his preferred slot of Treasury. At this stage it looks like Tanner and McMullan left because they were dissatisfied with the direction of the party, and perhaps the authoritarian nature of Latham’s leadership. Faulkner, of course, was one of Latham’s backers, but will also be sorely missed. I also wouldn’t like to see the Beazer return for a second go – and Tanner would be a better prospect than Rudd, I think – one of the best thinkers the party has. But he’s in the Left and as you’d know, tribal alliances run deep in the Labor Party – particularly in opposition when the Leader plays a key role in dispensing patronage and has a crucial swing vote on the National Exec.

I have never been a Latho fan, and have been a public critic of his policy approach in a number of publications. He did impress me with his tactical smarts as Opposition Leader in the last term – but never could pull it all together in a coherent strategy. It looks a little like, though, Labor is running out of leadership depth when it comes to alternatives.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

It’s moments like this when Mark Lithium should recall the poignant words of a very wise old sage with a wealth of experience in these matters- “I will lead for as long as my party want me to!”

observa
observa
2021 years ago

Which broadly translated means- A vote for Lithium is a vote for anyone left! Ah well, perhaps a wee glass of Andrew Garrett while we all mull this over. Hmmm…..?

Mark U
Mark U
2021 years ago

Ken

Couldn’t agree with you more about Kevin Rudd. I think he is fairly clued up on Foreign Affairs but when he talks to the media he sounds like a public service memo (bullet points and all). I don’t think he has any rapport with the average punter.

I suspect Tanner is moving to the back bench to wait while Latham implodes. Latham will not have the patience or leadership skills to do the slow and steady rebuild, and subsequent marketing, of policy that is needed in the Labor party. The loss of talent and experience to the backbench will make it even harder for him. Once this becomes apparent, the knives will be out and the backbench will leapfrog the front bench with Tanner as likely leader.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

As Mark B observed, Tanner’s problem is that he’s a member of the left faction (although he’s also living proof that ideology long ago ceased to have very much to do with factional allegiance). As Mark says, the problem with supporting a left faction member as leader is the power and patronage that go with the leadership. It might be possible to stitch together some sort of Tanner leadership deal that ensures the Right’s power, but it would probably only happen when they all get really desperate (which might not be too far away as things are developing at the moment).

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

I think, Ken, what adds to this is that both Crean and Latham’s leadership rested to a large degree on Left support. The throw of the electoral dice have improved the Left’s numbers in caucus and the Right show every sign of wanting to regroup. They may well feel that the time is coming when they want a leader who is really one of them. Beazley was well supported in the Queensland and NSW Right, the Victorian Right (Crean’s erstwhile powerbase) is a somewhat different kettle of fish, and Latham certainly pissed the NSW Right’s dominant group off mightily – his close alliance with Sussex St’s recent nemesis, Laurie Brereton, would have left some scars as well.

Alan Green
2021 years ago

Let’s hope the Labor party get themselves well and truly sorted in the next few months. If Tanner waits a year or so for Latham to implode, then challenges for the leadership, he might only have a year before the next election, putting him in the same, “unknown” category as Latham was this last election.

Martin Pike
2021 years ago

Tanner is great, Gillard has genuine sex appeal and is also smart, Smith is still a bit of a who?, Rudd seems too intellectual and bureaucratic to get voted in but then again think of Bob Carr, him on FA and Beazley on Defence was a good strong combo in my view, and that’s about my 20c worth.

Certainly, if I was Latham, I’d have a plate strapped to my back. A number of people who still have a strong interest in frontbench politics have resigned…

Guido
2021 years ago

Things like these have happened before. Look at this Pryor cartoon from 1982…we all know what happened a year later.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Guido

Yes, but I’m not sure the 1982 analogy would give Iron Mark a lot of comfort. Drover’s dogs are fairly thick on the ground in the ALP.

More seriously, the 1982 comparison might become more relevant if we end up in a recession in the near future. That’s what eventually led to a situation where (according to Hayden anyway) a drover’s dog could have won government from the Coalition. At the moment there’s no real sign of an imminent recession, although there are danger signs: world oil prices; the housing bubble; Howard’s wasteful election spending promises etc. Alternatively, Howard might avoid the danger of recession by reverting to prudent economic management and reneging on a lot of his spending promises, but if he does that then the 1996 analogy (rather than the 1983 one) becomes relevant.

I actually don’t agree with Saint Gough that Labor can’t win the next election. It’s much too early to know, and Howard’s win wasn’t actually a landslide (leaving aside the Senate). Labor remains close enough if it’s good enough and a few things go wrong for the Coalition. With a much higher proportion of the population loosely attached at best to either major party than in Gough’s day, relatively large swings probably aren’t as inconceivable as they once were. But Labor needs to start staking out the policy ground/vision quite soon, not leave it until the next election campaign yet again.

Scott Wickstein
2021 years ago

Are comments working here okay? I hope so- I’ve been fiddling round with stuff.

Scott Wickstein
2021 years ago

They are? Good.

Guido
Guido
2021 years ago

I agree with you Ken. The way the commentariat is talking we may as well cancel the 2007 election and save us lots of money and time.

State elections have shown that there is a sizeable proportion of voters who switch parties.

My impression is that they approach the election as they would if choosing a housing loan or a insurance policy. Wheighing the pro and cons and obviously the fact that the economy seems OK and
Latham while likeable was not worth the risk.

But these voters will switch very quickly if they believe the party in power (or the opposition) is not delivering the goods.

This is evident where it seems many people voted Labor for their State Governments and Liberal for the Federal Government.

Rex
Rex
2021 years ago

I agree. Tanner is brilliant and its a poor reflection on Latham’s style that he could not accommodate Tanner on the front bench.

It seems that Latham is not an inclusinve politician. Apparently he’s a good hater, and its clear that he likes to divide the world into insiders and outsiders. If he carries that philosphy into the caucus then divisiveness will will out.

Nevertheless, I’m not prepared to write Latham off just yet.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2021 years ago

Julia Gillard is hot and would be good in some role to appeal to the social progressives but I’m not sure I’d want her in the Treasury portfolio unless she does a Road to Damascus

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2021 years ago

Iron Mark is as safe as houses.
This is because the only challenger, Bomber, believes the ALP can only win in six years at best. That is just too far away for him.

There are no other ‘challengers’.

now if interest rates go up and the polls look bad well that is a new cricket game.

Nick
Nick
2021 years ago

Crikey, why don’t we feed the Labor Party all & sundry to the Liberal crocs while we’re at it!!!
In Mark Latham we’ve got a standup campaigner who has proven time & time again he can take the knocks the Gov’t & critics throw at him & in turn throw a few well timed punches himself (no pun intended). It was good fun & extremely satisfying to watch Howard scrabbling for the policy high ground on the Health, Environment & Childcare issues…not to mention the utter breathlessness caused as the wind was temporarily knocked out of him when the FTA amendments/blocks were announced. Snookered John is always a laugh to observe…we got plenty of those moments in the last year thanx to Latham…Remember? Certainly the ALP, imho & other forlorn pundits, made some real blunders by releasing ill-timed key policies that needed more elaboration, alteration & marketing. But let’s face it, Latham is newly constructing his profile with the electorate & it can’t be easy making decisions with the likes of the Keating olde guard breathing down on your strategic plans, not to mention attempting to move freely with Beasley crampin’ your space. The ALP lost by a mere 2-3% on a 2 party-preferred basis, primarily because the overriding theme in most swing voters minds was ‘it’s not quite time for the kid Latham’, let him hangout, prove his abilities to govern both socially & economically, & lay a few good punches on Howard & the Libs in the meantime’. The Libs won in an unholy alliance with the new evangelicals who have gained ground door by knocked on door…spreading homophobia, xenophobia & fear by the bucket loads to the troubled & the guilt-ridden…often previously hard drinkin’ families. Yep, the scrappers & hard yakkers who once voted Labor without a thought. So instead of assessing how the Left is going to deal with the change in voting demographics…or reassessing views on Nuclear energy, late term abortion…thinking thru the practical sense of ideas like homework centers for ALL kids, how to ensure the vote of the ‘leafy green park mod Libs’ or revealing the Achilles Heel of the Coalition regarding their preferencing of a devious homophobic party etc…what do the Left’s crybabies, Machiavellians & chronic pessimists do?…As usual, heed the words emanating from the great right-wing manipulative media baron’s flagships & get out the knives in an act of disloyalty. The same occurred in America after 2000…Gore wins the popular vote & consequently Fox News goes into overdrive proving he’s an ‘unhinged, crazy’ candidate (look at the character assasination of Howard Dean led by Murdoch’s teams earlier this year)…the Dems instead of licking their wounds quickly & then putting their prize fighter back to work, run around Gore in a Fox News-driven dance of moral fear & frenzy stickin’ the knife into every part of the popular vote winner they can. And pathetically have to rebuild their base from solid to pretty solid (more on mutual Bush hating than anything else)only to lose the Senate & eventually support a candidate who differs little from Gore…but can be newly & easily attacked by the Right Wing spin machine. Absurd!
Talk about eyes wide shut!

Link
2021 years ago

Thanks Nick. Well said.