I don’t think the Australian media has much to be proud of in the way it’s treated Mark Latham, over his entire period as Labor leader and particularly over the past few weeks. When he was new and exciting, he got fairly uncritical reporting and was built up further. Then, inevitably, he was torn down and, after the election loss, subjected to quite unfair criticism. This is the nature of the way media treats celebrities, including rapidly-rising politicians, and there’s probably nothing much that can be down about it, but it’s still depressing. And, of course, the Labor Party itself didn’t behave too well. Latham made some significant tactical mistakes, particularly regarding the way the Tasmanian forests issues were handled, and he had same bad luck, but he still performed better as leader, in my view than anyone Labor has had since 1996, and arguably since 1993.
Meanwhile, the view that Kim Beazley must lead again is being presented as irresistible by all the papers. One striking thing is that a lot of them refer to opinion polls showing that Beazley is the popular choice, but none of the polls I’ve seen (survey-based or write in) give him more than 35 per cent support. Both the Age and SMH have Internet polls running, and in both cases the combined vote for Rudd and Gillard exceeds that for Beazley. Given that most voters have already made up their minds about Beazley, this is not very promising.
Still, it looks as if we’re going to get him back again, and I’ll just have to hope he outperforms my expectations.
fn1. Keating did a great job demolishing Hewson, but let this narrow victory go to his head, and his second term was a disaster for Labor.