|Martin Davies image. www.daviesart.com|
Mark Latham said some shocking things last week if you’re a member of the political establishment, but if you’re a long-suffering voter you might feel Christmas has come early.
Hiya. Here’s today’s Sun Herald column.
No spin, come and see the real thing
G ‘day. Mark Latham said some shocking things last week if you’re a member of the political establishment, but if you’re a long-suffering voter you might feel Christmas has come early.
For a start, he professed pride in his government education and pledged to send his sons to a government school too, as good an indication as any that he’d put our money where his mouth is if he became prime minister.
“I want the same opportunities for my little boys that I’ve been lucky enough to have,” he said. “There’s nothing more powerful for our society than a good government school for people who come from a humble background.” (Disclosure: I attended the Slade Point State Primary School in North Queensland and The Gap State High School in Brisbane.)
Then he said he’d like our head of state – now the Governor-General – elected by the Australian people, because “I believe in the dispersal of power; opening up democracy for greater public participation”. Crikey!
You won’t believe this one either, but he also vowed to return to grassroots campaigning. You mean, actually talk to real people where they live instead of running around staging picture opportunities for the national media? I’d like to see that.
Sydney artist Robert Bosler recently wrote An artist’s blueprint for a Latham win for my Webdiary. Artists think differently to most people – I reckon it’s because they feel significant mood shifts before us plebs. He reckoned Latham’s election was profound for all of us: “We wake up now in a totally different country than we have done for seven years of a dominant Howard.”An artist’s blueprint for a Latham win “Two people who wake up each day to this totally different world are Mark Latham and John Howard. How each of them responds to their new world will create the new road map for our country’s future.” His tips for Latham are:
Remember you don’t have to do too much. “He must not get swept up in other people’s energy or ideas. To win, he must remain himself,” wrote Robert. He’s done that so far, for sure. His language and his style are open, honest, and – what I like most – he says publicly he’s open to persuasion, thus bringing us in on his decision-making. For example, he said of Labor’s refugee policy: “I’m open to any process that helps me to learn, to listen, to build my understanding of these issues.” It’s as if he’s asking us all to have a chat about the things that divide us and see if we can’t reach an agreed position.
Never forget you’re a winner. “He must, daily, feel and enjoy his own winning nature,” wrote Robert. He doesn’t act like a loser so far, does he? He announced during the week that he’d move his family to Canberra if he won the top job, and save us the cost of Howard’s Sydney residence to boot!
Keep your sense of humour. “Mark’s laugh so far has been positively wicked. It’s the laugh that brings out the spirited mischievous schoolboy in us if we are male, and the laugh that puts a mother’s hand to her brow as she faithfully prepares the next load of mud-splattered washing, along with a ‘What am I going to do with you’ comment,” wrote Robert.
That sense of humour must mature now he’s leader, but he’s kept it so far. I liked this line, when asked how his assault on a taxi driver compared to Andrew Bartlett’s touch-up of a Liberal senator : “I wish I had a dollar for every time that one’s been asked,” Latham said, rolling his eyes.
On days it all gets too much, say nothing. “His minders will be screaming at him: ‘You must speak to the media or they will tear you apart’. He must let the media do just that,” Robert wrote. He reckons this approach will create a vacuum which Latham can fill when he’s ready, and thus reset the agenda his way.
Latham’s relaxed refusal to bite at the Government’s barbs is a good example, as was his public apology to Malcolm Turnbull over a defamation allegation, clearing the decks on his own terms.
Stay the real thing, please. “We’re going to go on a roller-coaster ride with him, but isn’t that what life is, in truth? We’re going to laugh with him, shout at him, wonder with him, grow thoughtful with him. Mark has to be comfortable with how we respond to that human intimacy. We are not used to naturalness or intimacy in a leader now and Mark must prepare for our response to it. This way, he stays natural, and he stays the real thing,” Robert wrote.
I had a debate with a Labor numbers man about this in Canberra. I said the strategists shouldn’t ask Latham to argue for things he didn’t believe in. “I’ve had to do that more than once, and so will he. That’s politics,” he replied.
I think he’s wrong on this one. Latham has shown so far he’s ready to listen and to be convinced. But if he starts lying, he’s finished. We’ll see through it and be so disappointed we’ll write him and Labor off. We’re tired of spin politics. We’re ready for the real thing.