I can't help being bored by the ongoing Crean/Beazley stoush. Even so, mug punter that I am, my money's still on Crean to win, by a nose at most.
This flies in the face of the realities of Labor's factional politics, which I first learnt about when I was a member of a Labor Unity (Victorian Right) dominated ALP branch back in the 80s. At one branch meeting the branch president gave the following report on a recent State Conference of the party:
"This conference didn't go well for us, the Left rolled us on a lot of issues."
Everyone nodded, and the deputy president called for questions. There was a moment's silence, then from the back of the room where the alienated leftie members sat, someone asked:
"Excuse me Jack, but just which issues did the Left roll 'us' on?"
"I couldn't tell you that Gummo, I was in the Labor Unity caucus room most of the time," [tr: the back bar of the John Curtin Hotel] "But I do know we got rolled."
Of course this was back in the days before ALP branches started signing up members at weddings, baptisms, funerals and race meetings, and being a rank and file member of the ALP really meant something.
Of the newspaper articles I've read, Barry Donovan's in yesterday's Age sums it up best for me. Zeppo Bakunin, who is closer to being an ALP insider than I ever expect to be - he's actually on speaking terms with his local member - summed it up this way: the New South Wales Right would rather lose an election than yield control of the ALP. Don't expect them to give up if Beazley loses the vote on Monday.
The whole conduct of Beazley's bid stinks, starting with the leaking of the private poll results showing that up to 10 New South Wales members could lose their seats if Labor went to the polls with Crean as leader. The way this was handled shows how little genuine political talent the Sydney mob have. They could have used the information to develop policy and a long-term campaign strategy to win back support: instead, they decided the best way to use the information was to scare the shit out of their own sitting members to push them over to the Beazley side. Basically the threat is, support Beasley or expect to spend the rest of your career in the ALP stacking branches in Bennelong.
This doesn't show a lot of respect for the members concerned, nor for the voters. It's a case of bugger the policy issues, give them big Kim. He knows how to win them over. If Beazley does get up on Monday, I can think of only three reasons for a reasonably sane person to vote for Labor:
1. They may be conniving bastards, but at least they're your conniving bastards and nowhere near as bad as their conniving bastards.
2. You live in a safe Labor seat and, as usual, the sitting candidate is a lot more competent than the Coalition wannabe who's only running to audition for one of the marginals.
3. You don't give a rat's arse any more and the Labor candidate's name was at the top of the ballot paper.
Bored as I am by it, the whole thing bothers me enough to sneak into my dreams. Last night, I had a shocker. I was living somewhere in Sydney and, god knows why, listening to Silver Tonsils on 2UE. He was doing a talk-back session with Simon Crean as guest. There was a call that went something like this:
Tonsils: Our next caller is Jim. What do you want to talk to Simon Crean about Jim?
Jim: I was wondering if Simon remembered appearing on your show back in August 1995, when you asked him about the shoplifting guide in that student newspaper?
Simon: Er ...
Jim: And after Mr Laws got stuck into you, you got onto Jan Wade and told her how she could prosecute the editors of the paper?
Simon: Er ...
Tonsils: Well, I remember Jim, but it's a bit old hat. Do you have anything else to ask Simon Crean?
Jim: Yeah. Mr Crean, if you get to be Prime Minister, are you going to let that turd across the sound-desk push you around again?
Postscript: You can read the original Rabelais article here. Really - just scroll down the page a lot.