June 08, 2007

The work of mourning

Let the dead bury the dead, as it says in the Bible. But the problem with that is they've got to be dead, not just moribund. Which is round about the problem for the ALP when it comes to Paul Keating.

Keating seems to be going through a resurgence both in interest in the world and attention from the world. His latest intervention is about how generally useless Rudd's team is. It's a surgical strike, if the surgeon you have in mind worked during the Civil War in the US.

Even though he is shaping up as a freelance column-filler, I think Keating is actually correct. Leaving aside the unacknowledged bad blood between Keating and Gary Gray, Rudd's team is a poll-driven bunch of dullards. The depressing thing about them is that they're not in character different to the people who ran Beazley's campaigns, but they could well win this time just because they read the polls better. So in short, no ideas, but they have better timing and a less tin ear for what people want to hear.

The even more depressing thing is that I think Keating's hatchet-job actually works in Rudd's favour in the long run. The ALP's big problem is that they've never really been able to kill Hawke and Keating. Every successive ALP leader has been in the double bind of being simultaneously less colourful and appealing than Keating and yet tarred by association. The more colourless they get in an effort to distance themselves from Keating's perceived economic lunacy, perversely the more unappealing they are.

This time round, Keating might do them a favour by burying himself. The more he appears like Crazy Uncle Paul, the more the ALP is able to say that they've moved on. Sure, he's funny, but he's also mad, so it's kind of a good thing that he's bagging us. And thus the work of mourning can be forgotten - the ghosts of the early 90s will serve only to signify that something died, even if it hasn't been buried.

But that would mean that we'd also be locked into another 10 years before we started to understand exactly how much damage the Howard years have done. Keating is right; Rudd's poll-watchers might get him a win or loss, but either way, they aren't going to offer anything in the way of a new vision.

posted on June 08, 2007 at 12:42 PM by darren.

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