Every now and then The Furies take hold of the Australian Labor Party and give it a good shake.
This episode is different in being entirely about personality with no policy content. On the other hand, the issues of personality are pretty substantial!
It is also different in that it comes at a time of historic challenge for labor and social democratic parties through contraction of the industrial base, globalization, the limit of public sector spending and so on. This party crisis – for once the word not hyperbole – erupts when the party is struggling with 30 percent support. In the 50s and 60s outbreaks of self-indulgence occurred when the party could routinely claim 45 percent of the electorate. Perilous times, indeed
I have declined about 20 requests to talk because I think it unseemly for me to become another commentator on the party predicament, feeding off its temporarily disabled body.
I will say that alone of Australian institutions the ALP conducts no systemic training for its personnel, no mentoring, no coaching, no management of high potential talent. And we pay the price with spokespeople thrust into jobs with no preparation and no support or guidance. Good cases are lost because nobody can articulate them, our debating prowess has leached from the organization. So has personality and color, as ministers end sentences with rising inflections sounding querulous and timid or just read scripts in monotones, misuse language (say “myself” when they mean “I” ) and talk jargon. For Godsake, we saved Australia from the GFC and rebuilt the schools! Yet since 2007 we have lost the capacity to use persuasive, concrete, uplifting language to talk about our achievements.
A change of party culture is more vital than any rules change to rescue the old party from flatness and mediocrity.
Oh, and don’t overlook this: if Abbott, Turnbull and Hockey were kidnapped by Martians who would take over on their side?
The thinness of talent is even more obvious with the conservatives.