Friday 26 November 2004

Dead Man Walking

I'd say Mark Latham's days as leader of the Australian Labor Party are numbered - and may not be in double digits. They probably are. Probably.

From The Australian :
PM stays out of dead parrot row
Prime Minister John Howard stayed resolutely on the sidelines today in Labor's internal brawl.

He refused to buy into the row which has seen Opposition Leader Mark Latham described by a former senior opposition adviser as a dead parrot.

"I don't want to comment on his position. I will leave that to others," Mr Howard told Melbourne radio 3AW.

"It is terribly self-serving on the part of one political leader to be commenting on the adversity of his opponent."
A Politician in Australia can survive many things. But being held up to public ridicule by his own team isn't one of them.

Other signs that his feet are nailed to the perch are the less-than-enthusiastic support he's getting from the Comrades of the Caucus.

From the ABC :
Federal Opposition Leader Mark Latham says speculation about his future is nonsense that is filling up newspapers.

Unnamed Labor figures are reported to have said that Mr Latham has lost the support of key factional leaders.

Mr Latham says he was elected unopposed as Labor leader last month and he has no time for colleagues that make anonymous criticism of his leadership.

Mr Latham has told Adelaide Radio 5AA, disunity in the Labor Party is death.
But... I thought it was all nonsense... never mind.
However, Tasmanian Senator Kerry O'Brien says Mr Latham still has to convince the Caucus that he is the person who can lead Labor to victory at the next election.

Senator O'Brien says there are other people in the party who could take over.

"There are always plenty of people with that leader's baton in their knapsack and I'm not going to speculate about what might be totally hypothetical at this stage," he said.

"Mark's our leader at this stage, we're working through the consequences of the loss."

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello has predicted Mark Latham will not last as Opposition Leader.

Mr Costello says it appears Mr Latham now lacks the support of the Labor Caucus.

"I think they've probably made up their mind about Mr Latham but what they haven't made up their mind about is the alternative," he said.

"I'll watch like everybody else to see what alternatives emerge over the course of next year."
Or possibly sooner, at this rate. They're not Marshal's batons in their knapsacks, they're daggers.

Even his most enthusiastic backers are strangely muted about how wonderful a leader he is. From the ABC again :
The Federal Opposition health spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, has urged her colleagues not to fuel further speculation about Mark Latham's leadership.
Ms Gillard says Mr Latham is doing a good job as Labor leader.

"Clearly, after an election defeat there is a bit of hurt around the place but I think that Labor that needs to get on with the task under Mark Latham's leadership," she said.
Really. He's not that bad. Keep that thought, and repeat it until you convince yourself.

From The Australian :
There was no rift developing between Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and Mark Latham, Mr Bracks said today.

But Mr Bracks said the federal Labor leader was wrong to blame state governments for the ALP's election loss.

The two men shook hands and exchanged a brief greeting in Ballarat today at the launch of celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade.

Mr Bracks denied the meeting was frosty and said he had a good relationship with Mr Latham.

"I've got an effective and professional relationship, a good relationship," Mr Bracks said.
Asked if he backed Mark Latham as opposition leader, Mr Bracks said the leadership was a matter for the federal caucus.

"It's not my role to back anyone, I have a state to run," he said.

But Mr Bracks said Mr Latham was the elected leader and deserved the support of the party.
So much for a "ringing endorsement". Then there's Maria Hawthorne's piece in The Australian, Good Aussie Journalism at its best (and I'm not being sarcastic) :
He has been labelled a dead parrot by a former Beazley adviser, a narcissist who won't listen to anyone by anonymous frontbenchers, and a bully by a state Labor premier.

He has allegedly had an angry bust-up with factional heavyweight Stephen Conroy, accusing him of leaking internal ructions to journalists, and says one journalist has been sold so many pups by Labor leakers that he could open a pound.

Meanwhile, Latham supporters ask journalists if they know the frontbencher responsible for a critical magazine story this week, then mutter darkly about members of the Left faction.

One frontbencher says Mr Latham's like someone with a bad case of sunburn – "even looking at him hurts".

After going backwards at the election and losing ground in opinion polls since, Opposition MPs are cranky, fractious and looking for answers.
Internally, the Labor caucus is split into three camps – those who voted against Mr Latham last December and now feel vindicated, those who took a chance on him and now wonder what would have happened on October 9 if they had not, and a small band of Latham loyalists who are sticking by their man.

His problem is that he does not have a large store of goodwill within his party.

His prickly personality and loner attitude have earned him few friends in his nine years in federal parliament.

And his reaction to the election defeat, particularly his reshuffle of the Labor front bench, has got many offside within the party.

"There's always winners and losers but there's a handful of people who weren't his supporters who he's chosen to kick in the guts," one demoted frontbencher says.

Some frontbenchers are even suggesting that there is not the goodwill for Mr Latham that there was for his predecessor Simon Crean – an astonishing claim given the months of destabilisation before Mr Crean's eventual departure.
Simon Crean had all the charisma of a compost heap, though at worst he was mediocre rather than actually awful as a politician. To have less support than him... takes a bit of doing. But Mark Latham has managed it. To continue:
In addition to the open political arguments, Labor's staff ranks are haemorrhaging, with 11 positions advertised last Saturday, including a speech writer and economics adviser for the determinedly independent Latham.

Some caucus critics have predicted a leadership spill by Christmas...
Quietly, without any fuss, the rats whose employment is on the line are leaving the sinking ship. When the staff leave, you know the end is pretty near, and absolutely certain. Then there's this gem :
Bookmakers won't take bets on how long Mr Latham will last as leader.

They argue that, because the matter will be settled by the Labor caucus – a relatively small (and even smaller since the election) group of people – it would be possible for someone with inside knowledge to profit.
But... that would imply that members of the Labor Caucus might be dishonest! You know things are bad when the bookies won't take any bets. It's a dead cert, accent on the "dead". As in parrot.

In order to understand the group dynamics involved, just go to this site. For Your Eyes Only.

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