Please, not Beazley
It’s back to another round of Labor leadership speculation, and, inevitably, the first name pulled out of the bag is that of Kim Beazley. I’ve made all the usual arguments against him too often to repeat them, but there’s a new one that I think is relevant.
On current indications (these could change of course, but they’re what we have to go on), Labor is unlikely to win in 2007, so a successful appointment as leader would need to serve two terms in Opposition before becoming PM. Presumably, the party would want at least the option of two full terms from their leader in these circumstances. So, we’re looking at electing someone who (if successful) might still be leading the party past 2015. Beazley is 56 now, and not, at least in my perception, a young 56. Leaving aside the fact that (IIRC) Labor still has compulsory retirement at 65, can anyone see him as a credible leader for the next ten years and beyond?
Of course, that’s his whole attraction for quite a few of his backers. He’s a safe choice, meaning that he’s pretty much guaranteed to lose and go quietly after the next election, allowing a comfortable ride for [insert preferred name here].
It might be objected that John Howard was the same age when the Libs elected him leader, and that turned out well for them. But the electoral position was much more favorable and, after the demise of Hewson and the failure of the Downer-Costello dream team, there was no real alternative. In any case, Howard is, and always has been, a much more substantial figure than Beazley in all but the most literal of senses.
Labor isn’t short of options. I favored Rudd last time around, and I think he’s probably the right choice this time. But I’d also be happy with Gillard, and there are a string of reasonably able candidates who might turn out well, either in the long-term or to hold things together while the party recovers from the last election. Finally, although it’s looking unlikely that Latham can hang on, I don’t think he’s done a bad job in the circumstances, and if he does manage to recover in both health and political terms, I’d be glad of it.