Just another sideshow in the circus of politics
Lindsay Tanner’s book of essays will be bought by few and chatted about by many as it provides anti-Labor fodder for the Liberal election campaign beast.
The essays contained in Inside the Gang of Four make just enough sense - Labor hasn’t had a confident and composed agenda - for Mr Tanner’s own contradictions to be ignored.
But those contradictions are really big ones.
In today’s The Australian he fumes at the injustice heaped on Kevin Rudd by the colleagues who ousted him.
“The Rudd Government wasn’t dysfunctional. That description is completely unfair.”
But there is evidence for the charge and it comes from essayist Lindsay Tanner. In his latest book he discusses operation of the so-called Gang of Four, the four members of the powerful Strategic Priorities and Budget Committee - Mr Rudd, Mr Tanner, Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard.
“By the beginning of 2010, the SPBC process was deteriorating. Meetings were called, rescheduled and cancelled with great regularity, so that I lost the ability to schedule diary appointments any more than two or three days in advance with any confidence,” he wrote.
“Individual matters of middling importance were left unresolved for extended periods, and ministers and public servants were sometimes kept waiting for hours before getting a chance to enter an SPBC meeting to discuss their particular issues. In some cases, the issues weren’t even discussed because of the logjam in the agenda.
“Late in 2009, concerns about our decision-making processes were raised in cabinet. Only a couple of ministers complained at the time, while several indicated that they were quite happy for others to spend half their lives in arduous meetings about matters outside their own portfolios. It wasn’t until March or April 2010 that serious rumblings about the role of the Gang of Four began to emerge.’‘
I’m not sure what the descriptions of dysfunction Mr Tanner objects to from others, but he provides a pretty convincing one himself.
Mr Tanner of course also wrote Sideshow, in which he argued the media exploits politics at its simplest levels. He knows his media stuff, having handed extracts of his current book to selected journalists and then lept on the ABC interview circuit to promote his work.
The common thread between Sideshow and this latest effort, Inside the Gang of Four, is that a lot of problems are laid out but no solutions.
Former colleagues claim this is what he was like in Government, with one saying today, “He was always carping but never coming up with answers.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Bob Carr has raised the issue of former Labor figures rushing to a publisher when they leave Parliament, rarely to the benefit of their former colleagues.
Few things send shudders through the spine of a Labor leader than a former colleague’s news, “I’m thinking of writing a book.”
On Twitter today I asked why this happened to Labor with fewer Liberals taking up the pen after politics, and there were thoughtful and blunt responses.
“Political books are not so much the telling of history but the re-writing it. Partisan me says Labor has more need to rewrite it,” said one Liberal backer.
Another tweet read: “The left always eat their own. Also, former Libs seem to end up in the party machine or with comfy directorships.”
Said one, “Bitterness, they feel they were wronged? Can’t seem to move on from Rudd (Lindsay T)? Lives in the past?”
Troy Bramston, himself a political author, points out that while Lazarus Rising was a big seller for John Howard, it isn’t the biggest political seller.
“The best selling political book in Australia is Gough Whitlam’s The Truth of The Matter (1979 first edition.”
Inside the Gang of Four is unlikely to trouble the record.
Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
Congrats to @adambspencer for many great years on ABC radio. You always sound like you on air, buddy. This shouldn't be a rare skill, but is
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…