Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Should he stay or should he go?

The various machinations behind the Labor leadership is not unlike desperately rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Now matter how quickly or dramatically it might be done, the ship is still sinking. It's amazing to think that the man who only a year ago was credited for singlehandedly saving the ALP from political obscurity, helping Labor to surge ahead in the polls and give them a more than realistic chance of winning the year's election, now seems to be over and done with as Labor attempts to emulate the Lazarus effect of John Howard's political resurrection with the big man, 2-time election loser Kim Beazley.

I'm pretty sure that this is not the solution. I'm not sure what is exactly, but I believe the next Labor PM will be from NSW or Victoria, not WA. Labor - and left-wing politics in general, it seems - is dead in the West, and despite Beazley's personal popularity over there, it won't stop that state's seemingly inevitable shift to the right (2004: Labor loses two seats, came extremely close to losing two more, its safest seat is now only of a margin of less than 8% and one marginal seat alone had a 9% swing to the Libs). Labor, however, still seems to have a fighting chance in NSW. Although once-safe Labor outer suburban seats are gradually going Liberal, which the Murdoch media delighted in pointing out (when they weren't sexing up the Greens as pinko, commo, drugged-up deviants), it was an overlooked fact that there was also a significant swing to Labor not just in safe inner-city Labor seats, but also affluent Liberal north shore ones like Joe Hockey's, Tony Abbott's and Brendan Nelson's. Even Howard's own seat is now technically marginal (Andrew Wilkie's Green campaign no doubt contributing here). Whether or not it was the "doctors' wives" at work, it seems indicative of the social conscience of the upper class. Sure, they might have too much money and/or chemical warfare in their cheekbones, employ slave labour in their homes and infuriate us on the roads with their 4-wheel drives (perfect for the harsh terrain of Chatswood Chase car park), but they're intelligent, educated people who can identify the lies and moral bankruptcy of the Howard administration and, in the face of dinner party social suicide, might not automatically put a "1" in the blue box as they've otherwise done all these years.

This to me seems where the future of Labor lies. It is clear Labor can no longer appeal to the insular, self-serving interests of the "aspirational" residents living in the Kellyville McMansions. They tried - Nicola Roxon's backflip on the gay marriage ban bill to cheers from the Rancid Religious Right (RRR) is but one example - and failed. A counsellor from Hillsong still won the Blacktown-based seat for the Libs and the Baulkham Hills seat remains Liberal by a 20% margin.

The differences between Labor and Liberal can no longer be drawn on economic lines. Latham failed in the 2004 election because he made class an issue. People didn't like his Abbott/North Shore bashing and constant reminders of his struggling existence growing up in Green Valley. Maybe people don't want to proudly identify as working class anymore. It's no longer a fashionable badge. So if we work on the assumption that Labor must now appeal to greed and the "what's in it for me?" mentality as effectively as the Libs do, they can still distinguish themselves as the party that isn't dictated to by the RRR, doesn't confuse resistance to religious indoctrination at schools with "values neutral", won't automatically bend over and spread for the mighty US staff and doesn't believe a little old fashioned electro-shock therapy can cure homosexuality.

A whole party of doctors' wives sounds quite fabulous to me. You know they'll be impeccably tailored in Carla Zampatti, they'll love the homos because they know no-one can make aioli quite like we do and they'll let us sleep off the drugs and alcohol on a Sunday morning rather than drag us off to sing for Jesus. Bring it on.



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