So many political careers have come to an end in the last week that it’s not going to be possible to say much about all of them. But John Howard’s thirty or more years in Australian politics deserve some sort of notice beyond what we’ve seen so far, mostly motivated by the internal disputes of the Liberal Party .
I’ll start with the positives. Despite his carefully cultivated ordinariness, Howard was the most substantial figure produced by the Liberal party since the party itself was created by Menzies from the ruins of the old United Australia Party. In important respects, he epitomised the ‘forgotten people’ to whom Menzies appealed, and, on a number of critical occasions (after the Port Arthur massacre, on East Timor, after the Boxing Day tsunami), he represented those people at their best.