15 August 2010

We need to talk about Kevin (yet again)

Former Labor leader Mark Latham has done his credibility enormous damage over the last few days by his behaviour on the election campaign trail as an accredited journalist for Channel Nine.

This does not alter the fact that there is a lot of worthwhile information and insight about the political process and the interior workings of the ALP in his weekly columns for The Australian Financial Review.

I for one share completely his view that the disruptions to Julia Gillard’s election campaign caused by well-timed leaks and revelations were all orchestrated by and on behalf of Kevin Rudd.  "Cui bono?” is always the question to ask, and it is hard to see any benefit to anyone in these antics, except for an opportunity for Kevin Rudd, having played the pyromaniac, to ride to the rescue on the fire engine.

Rudd’s apologists argue that Rudd cannot help it if he remains newsworthy.  For my money his appearances on centre stage were too well timed to be the product of coincidence – this is Kevin the villain, not Kevin the victim.

I think it is particularly significant that it was Kevin Rudd who announced that Julia Gillard had asked him to go beyond campaigning for his own seat and campaign nationally.  After this pre-emptive strike she presumably felt it impossible to deny it, but I have never seen any statement or sign from her that I regard as a convincing confirmation that she had sought his help.

In not denying the proposition she missed a golden opportunity; she would have been far better to say “He has taken it very hard, and now the poor fellow seems to be losing the plot”.

If Julia Gillard follows through on her plan to appoint Kevin Rudd to a senior Cabinet post she will rue the day.  She exposes herself to the risk of being constantly undermined by leaks, and to insider gossip in the media that she really doesn’t “get” foreign policy.

On the ABC’s Stateline three weeks ago I said that this was one promise that Julia Gillard ought not to keep, and I remain of that view. There would be a price to pay in the short run, but she really would be better off to have this man outside the tent. The public would soon tire of his attention seeking behaviour, as they have of Mark Latham’s.

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