What with the sheer number of journalistic political pundits churning out daily “footie commentary” columns to fill the voracious maw of the media cycle, you’d imagine that no possible play would be left unanalysed. Instead we get a curious brand of groupthink where they all write pretty much the same thing, leavened by occasional tendentious leaks from inside sources.
There’s one angle in particular I would have thought was obvious but which hasn’t been explored AFAIK. What is Richo up to? And why? You remember Richo, the corpulent, oleaginous semi-retired ALP factional fixer and former senior Hawke-Keating government Minister. Richo has been up to his oily neck in leaks and commentary on the Craig Thomson affair. In fact he may even have leaked the information that restarted the focus on Thomson’s alleged commercial sex penchant in the first place. You don’t have to be a genius to work out that Richo is almost certainly the “senior Sydney Labor source” referred to in this 17 August piece by Murdoch journos Andrew Clennell and Steve Lewis. And here’s Richo keeping things on the boil by fearlessly predicting more leaks to come. And of course there were. Fortunately for Richo he’s not only a semi-retired political player but apparently accepted unquestioningly by a supine media as a credible disinterested pundit/analyst. Thus there is no end of Richo punditry aimed at destabilising the Gillard government and pouring petrol on the Thomson fire.
Does Richo just have a grudge against Thomson? Or an interest in Health Services Union affairs? Somehow I doubt it. Or is he just morally outraged by Thomson’s behaviour? The latter seems especially unlikely, as acerbic Labor blogger Andrew Landeryou observes:
A victim of quite spectacular scandal sagas himself, one of them relating to the provision of sex workers at the Sea World Nara Resort back in the days when he was a federal minister. It was never suggested he’d paid for them though. It was – as we say in Vegas – “comped” in circumstances later deemed unrelated to the exercise of his public duties.
So when he called Craig Thomson stupid for using credit cards (union-paid ones at that), his criticism might have been more limited and specific than it appeared.
In fairness to Richo, however, I should point out that allegations about his cavorting on a “Love Boat” in the 1980s with a prostitute delightfully named Virginia Perger were probably false, although I’m not sure we can reach that conclusion about rather similar allegations in the 1990s which immediately preceded his sudden retirement from elected office.
It seems much more likely that Richo’s assiduous efforts are aimed at precipitating or accelerating Julia Gillard’s dumping as PM. That suspicion is heightened by revelations this morning that the Glenn Milne column pulled from the Oz yesterday under threats of defamation action by Gillard had emanated from AWU leaks to Andrew Bolt and others including Milne:
Milne wrote that Ms Gillard’s problems with the Craig Thomson scandal were about to get worse as elements of the AWU tried to demonstrate that Ms Gillard was implicated – albeit unknowingly – ”in a major union fraud of her own before she entered Parliament”.
Clearly there’s a push to get rid of Gillard and Richo is a prominent part of it. But in favour of which other candidate? Mungo McCallum argues there isn’t a “Plan B” because there’s no viable candidate:
“The deputy, Wayne Swan, is totally identified with the Gillard Government and in any case is too boring. Defence Minister Stephen Smith has been mentioned as a relatively unknown cleanskin but is hardly the man to excite the imagination of millions.((He’s also sitting on a wafer-thin margin in WA and will be lucky to survive the next election even without the added burden of leadership. ~KP)) Climate Change Minister Greg Combet is competent and convincing but tied to the unpopular carbon tax.((And he bears an uncanny resemblance to Clark Kent with a permanent sneer, which isn’t a good look. ~KP)) Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten is a down-to-earth figure who has had a moment in the sun with the disability proposals but is still remembered as one of the faceless men from 2010.”
But there’s one very obvious candidate whose dismissal by Mungo may be less convincing:
“Kevin Rudd is the voters’ choice, but absolutely unacceptable to the powerbrokers who killed him off once and would blow up the party rather than have him back.”
I don’t know so much. Richo notoriously will do “whatever it takes” to win. Could he have reached the conclusion that Kev is Labor’s only hope and be setting about persuading other faceless factional operators to the same view? Of course he assiduously disavowed any such intention only a couple of months ago, but then he would say that wouldn’t he? Rudd certainly can’t be tagged with the “Juliar” label, and many Australians still think he was unfairly dumped and should have the chance to lead Labor to an election as PM. Labor’s position now is not all that different in kind (though rather worse in degree) from the Coalition’s position just before Abbott rolled Turnbull. All the talk then was of a landslide loss that would obliterate the Tories for a generation. If factional leaders and a majority of MPs conclude that Kev is their only hope of salvaging even a respectable defeat from the current wreckage, I’d wager that they’ll manage to hold their collective noses, adopt fixed smiles and chomp into the shit sandwich that is Kevin Rudd.