FOOI #10: Ex-pollies, just shut up and put the kettle on
I am becoming increasingly tired of seeing, hearing or reading in the media, former Prime Ministers or politicians struggling to retire from political power and influence with dignity.
Anyone with even a modest interest in politics could compile a substantial list in just a few minutes. Think Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Pauline Hanson, Peter Beattie, Bob Carr, Cheryl Kernot, Jeff Kennett, Mark Latham, John Hewson, Peter Costello, Graham Richardson and Peter Reith and you will have just started. Why don’t these ex-pollies just put the kettle on and relax?
Then of course there is deposed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who is suffering the “Kath and Kim “ syndrome: “Look at me, look at me, look at me!”
Rudd recently accused Graham Richardson of suffering from Relevance Deprivation Syndrome, a phenomenon coined by former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans in a press interview shortly after his retirement.
Evans defined the term as lamenting the sudden feeling of social impotence that confronted him when he was no longer privy to the inner workings of Parliament, long years of increasing oblivion stretching ahead and he was feeling totally lost.
The media are forced to seek opinions from former politicians because the current elected crop seem to collectively suffer from the inability to link more than ten words meaningfully together on any topic unless they are fed a script by a minder via some electonic device.
Because prominent ex-politicians are courted by the media so regularly, they fall into the trap of feeling they are still needed. In that delusional state they start offering unsolicited advice even when they are not asked.
Former national leaders and politicians are treated differently elsewhere in the world.
US Presidents are automatically retired after eight years and are favoured with an instant place in history and the ongoing trappings of office including security and bullet-proof limousines for official use.
African and Middle Eastern countries either execute them or send them into exile. European nations award pompous titles and include them on invitation A-lists for social events. In Australia we just turn them into media hacks.
David Owen, a former Foreign Secretary in the UK, wrote a book about political leadership and sickness and included two chapters focussing on the intoxication of power.
He called it the “Hubris Syndrome”, an excess of pride and self confidence in their own ability and an exaggerated importance on how they appear in public situations.
Such politicians often only turn up to events which they believe will enhance their career but generally they maintain an overwhelming contempt for others.
Owen pointed out that ex-political leaders continued to experience huge doses of daily adrenaline and were in a perpetual state of post-traumatic stress disorder.
They maintained the fantasy that they would one day be “called back” to save their countries.
Simon Jenkins, a UK political commentator, said recently that there is no animal in the political jungle more awful in its misery than an ex-prime minister or politician full of resentment, hopelessness and revenge, out of touch with reality and intent on winning glory for themselves.
I urge all former Prime Ministers and politicians to adopt the famous World War I phrase and apply it to themselves. “Retired politicians never die, they should simply fade away!”
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