December 04, 2003


Another day, another million words about Mark Latham. Greg Hywood writes that Latham has taken over a party whose economic credentials have evaporated:

The post-Keating generation of leaders, Kim Beazley and Simon Crean, threw it all away. They left John Howard to be the intellectual and practical successor to the Labor reform legacy, and they retreated into traditional tax and spend welfarism.

History hates retreaters. Frank Devine is moved to support Latham via an unlikely source:

I was nudged towards Latham in the lead-up to yesterday's caucus by, paradoxically, Robert Manne writing in The Age that if Latham were the man, Labor would "abandon interest in Aboriginal reconciliation" and "demonstrate a growing contempt for what Latham calls the left-wing 'rights agenda'." Splendid news, I thought.

Indeedy. Greg Craven compares Latham to Jeff Kennett, and offers a literary critique:

Latham's books are the sort that real intellectuals guiltily conceal beneath copies of Playboy: painfully conceived, poorly written, and very, very boring.

Craven’s column isn’t. Take a look. Greg Sheridan also examines Latham’s writing ability:

Civilising Global Capital, in which Latham established himself as an intellectual, contained prose of the following insightful quality: "The threshold of skills required for employability security has moved to a new plane of cognitive capacity." That means you need an education to get a job.

The threshold of skills required for marriagability security was apparently beyond Latham, according to first wife Gabrielle Gwyther:

Ms Gwyther told The Daily Telegraph yesterday she was devastated by the broken marriage after she had spent years supporting Mr Latham's early political career. "He talked about climbing the ladder to get to where he is but he climbed over me to get there," Ms Gwyther said.

James Morrow says there is reason to doubt the sincerity of Latham's anti-American posturing:

As an ambitious young pollie with his eyes on the brass ring of leadership at a time when public opinion was running strongly against Australian involvement in the war, it is only natural that Latham would try to stake out an audacious, headline-grabbing position.

Latham is no stranger to headlines, notes Barry Jones:

As a newspaper columnist, Latham often attacked "elites" in a way that John Howard and Paddy McGuinness would have applauded, but in the long term elites generally turn out to be correct, and the support of elites was very important in the Whitlam and Hawke victories and within ALP branches. In his new role, I am confident Latham will take a fresh direction.

Hmmm. I’d like to see Barry provide a few examples of the elites “turning out to be correct”. Piers Akerman revels in Latham’s first Question Time appearance:

Strangely, the only Labor figure who seemed to enjoy watching the new Leader's flawed performance was his immediate predecessor Simon Crean, who should not have been allowed to sit within camera range.

Andrew Bolt recalls being within range of Latham fury during a Canberra bar visit:

Latham spotted me as I walked in and glared, which was fair enough, given what I'd written about his foul mouth and heart of hate ... But within minutes, one of Latham's drinking mates peeled off and plonked himself in my face, screaming obscenities for at least 10 minutes and plucking at my arm, clearly spoiling for a fight he didn't dare start. It was Steve Roach, a Labor identity and CFMEU union official, and I ordered him out of the pub.

Which leads us to SMH Webdiarist Harry Heidelberg, standing in for Margo Kingston, who remembers his own ordering-out incident:

Sydney CAN be a rough town and anyone who thinks cab drivers are all cute as buttons and harmless as teddy bears needs to get out and about more often. I once had one run over my foot in Woollahra. Another one stopped in the middle of the Harbour Bridge and asked me to get out for no apparent reason.

The abundance of potential responses renders me temporarily comatose.

Posted by Tim Blair at December 4, 2003 02:34 AM

Heads up: Margo didn't write that last one.

Posted by: Tim at December 4, 2003 at 02:45 AM

I am astonished that james Morrow could be so casual about Latham's anti Americanism.

Posted by: Fred Boness at December 4, 2003 at 03:06 AM

Sounds like this Latham person wants to be the next Howard Dean, or vice versa.

Posted by: Tim Shell at December 4, 2003 at 03:22 AM

TD -- good call. Now fixed.

Posted by: tim at December 4, 2003 at 03:36 AM

Geez, Tim, the non-Margo Webdiary was written in clear English prose, devoid of drooling and ranting. I can't believe you didn't spot it for a ringer at once.

Posted by: R.C. Dean at December 4, 2003 at 04:57 AM

My lame excuse, RC -- I was tipped off via email on the Webdiary piece. Should've checked the source first before posting. Still, Harry's almost as nuts.

Posted by: tim at December 4, 2003 at 05:33 AM

Help!! Poll at loony left Brisbane ABC is being stacked by loony lefties, encouraged by "presenters" Kirsten, Peter and Spencer.

Posted by: Kate at December 4, 2003 at 06:10 AM

looks like the ALP has picked a real loser. A man who could make a cripple joke about Tony Staley (who walks on crutches because of a debiltating illness)is pretty sick.

Posted by: Toryhere at December 4, 2003 at 06:48 AM

"Hey you! No barfing in my taxi!"

"Oh, it's just your face."

Posted by: donnyc at December 4, 2003 at 08:19 AM

Is Andrew Bolt now so physically imposing that union heavies "wouldn't dare" start a fight with him? Is he in fact a bouncer, authorised to "order" people out of the pub? This smacks of fantasy. I'd like to hear the other side of the story.

Posted by: kolchak at December 4, 2003 at 08:41 AM

I wonder how long it will take to live down his comments about Bush. Surely it can't be remembered forever. Nobody refers to Alexander Downer as "the guy who thinks domestic violence is funny" anymore.

Posted by: Rick Squane at December 4, 2003 at 09:04 AM

do they call latham "the real thing" because his head is shaped like a can of coke?

Posted by: roscoe at December 4, 2003 at 09:15 AM

Well said, Greg Hywood:

'It is a characteristic of his (Latham's) generation that he is intellectually prepared for leadership.'

As against the consensus- and equal outcomes-fixated baby boomer generation.

John Howard appears to have been the last of the generation; now the circle has turned.

About time.

Posted by: ilibcc at December 4, 2003 at 09:29 AM

... the (previous) generation ...

Posted by: ilibcc at December 4, 2003 at 09:30 AM

'I wonder how long it will take to live down his comments about Bush. Surely it can't be remembered forever. Nobody refers to Alexander Downer as "the guy who thinks domestic violence is funny" anymore'.

One point here is that Downer is not likely in the near future to be our country's leader.

Go and have a look at the link to Andrew Bolt's piece, it makes interesting reading.

Posted by: nic at December 4, 2003 at 10:01 AM

John Howard must be just stoked with Labor at the moment. Beza the whale, 2 time loser that he is, may have made a useful contribution and may have given Howard a run at the next election - that's a very big maybe mind you. Latham on the other hand has to make apologies for his personality traits before he can even get started. Not the best beginning - to have to convince voters you are not a thuggish, dickhead loud-mouth. This is a great time to be a Conservative.

Posted by: Jake D at December 4, 2003 at 10:04 AM

Yes our boy Bush is in the whitehouse and our boy Johnny is in the lodge. Even the british labour PM acts like a tory. Good times.

Posted by: Amos at December 4, 2003 at 10:51 AM

Then again, The Australian's business writer Mark Westfield says put your mortgage on a Latham win.

Posted by: ilibcc at December 4, 2003 at 11:55 AM


I have it on good authority that Andrew Bolt spent a period in his youth as a "minder". So he probably could take on a drunken unionist without much trouble.


It seems from your comments that you are one of those people who still thinks that it is possible for the ALP to be reasonably right wing so as not to pander to those who prefer "equality" to liberty. You are on the road to Conservatism, but still find it hard to make that final few steps to be a true Tory, even though your views (which have been appearing on this site for some time) are generally very trenchantly anti-left.

Right wing Labor is really a myth. The whole APL philosophy is based upon the idea that Government and politics can save us and that everyone must be "equal". Freedom is not something that such people can ever truly embrace.

Posted by: Toryhere at December 4, 2003 at 02:35 PM

a new product.. "LATHAM LITE", half the balls and twice the distaste.

Posted by: roscoe at December 4, 2003 at 05:20 PM

Hey Toryhere - you ain't a Tory you're just a right wing thug like Bolt et al.

From reading the rubbish you write here, I doubt you know anything about Tory political history. Just the debased version wannabes from the low middle classes like Thatcher and Howard have degraded Toryism into the past two decades.

Go and read a few serious political history books. I suggest you start with Churchill's history series.

Malcom Fraser is a classical Tory and I doubt you'd even put yourself in the same room with a dangerous politically incorrect man like that.

So stop spewing out your ill-informed rants and go read some books that don't have any pictures in them.

But I guess like that faux-Tory thug Tony Abbott you don't read books anymore and regard intellectual thought as high treason.

Posted by: Harry Wilson at December 4, 2003 at 07:43 PM

Watch it, Harry! A gentleman would demand "satisfaction" for those comments!

Posted by: Bob Bunnett at December 4, 2003 at 11:49 PM

So ToryHere thinks he's more Tory than illibc and Harry Wilson thinks he's more Tory than ToryHere - My name is His Toryness, that must make me the most Tory of all of you... I've never seen a Tory measuring contest before.

Lets reflect a moment and look at some words that rhyme with Tory - story...glory...allegory...Montessori.

Which Tory are we talking about anyway? Amos or Spelling?

Posted by: His Toryness at December 5, 2003 at 02:29 AM


I like Kim, and I didn't want him to go out as a three time loser, which he would have been.

Latham, on the other hand, can't lose too badly to suit me. And I hope his forthcoming loss will do something to discredit what he is and stands for: vulgarity, hate, amateurish arrogance, hostility to our key ally, and utter weakness, as shown by his back-tracking over his obvious anti-Americanism.

Are there any other good sides to the elevation of this foul-mouthed thug to the post of leader of the opposition?

Posted by: David Blue at December 6, 2003 at 09:18 AM