Ruddmentum, Creanimation and Julia Spillard
It's hard to believe that it was only 1001 days ago that I found myself sitting at a computer at 10 am in the morning trying to work out what in God's good name had just happened to the Australian Labor Party. Re-reading that piece now, the naivete and misplaced hope it speaks of seems almost quaint. This was, after all, still a time when Julia Gillard was the take-no-prisoners deputy leader of the country, a woman whose performances in Parliament were said to rival those of Keating himself. Back then there was nobody better at ripping the Opposition's paltry policies to shreds than Gillard. Hell, you could tell she actively enjoyed it. Especially when she got to do it to Tony Abbott, a cowed, quivering wreck of a man who in those days seemed as readily electable as a pile of wet newspaper. A smart, charismatic and driven woman who already had the Opposition Leader on ice? What could possibly go wrong?
YOJO: You Only Julia Once #spill— Kevin Rudd (@KevinRuddExPM) March 21, 2013
And now, here we are. A perfect 1001 days later. Having witnessed the spectacular and perhaps irretrievable immolation of an entire half of our (admittedly narrow) political spectrum. I look back at how I approached that first spill, the intense fascination I shared with so many other Australians and I feel like I'm remembering something from my childhood, from a time when everything was made of puppies and roses and the base conviction that somehow everything was going to be OK. But now we're all grown up. The veil of political optimism has been pulled from our eyes. And watching the seamy, petty and embarrassing day-to-day machinations of our political scene is like watching a crowd of toddlers having an all-in vomit party.
BALL SO HARD MOTHER FUCKERS WANNA FINE ME #spill— Kevin Rudd (@KevinRuddExPM) March 21, 2013
1001 days. I guess it's quite a long time when you put it like that, although the rot set in almost from the moment Gillard accepted the role. The missteps were immediate, thorough. The obvious factional deals and mangled policy made her seem weak and indecisive. In the full glare of the media spotlight she came across as uncertain, and lacking conviction. Even now it's hard to work out what exactly happened. Was it the fault of the powerbrokers she was beholden to, actively canvassing what she was going to say? Was it the fault of a media who refused to even accept the possibility of this interloper – this woman – taking power? Was it the fault of the focus groups, endlessly diluting a message until all that remained was a gentle, inoffensive mist? Whatever the cause, the writing seemed to be on the wall within weeks, her scant re-election only adding further fuel to the fire. Truth be told, it's quite amazing that she lasted this long considering everything that was arrayed against her. Underneath all the crap, there's still glimmers of the politician she once was.
OI THERESE WHERE ARE MY GOING OUT PANTS #spill— Kevin Rudd (@KevinRuddExPM) March 14, 2013
The Murdoch media, smelling an easy return to their beloved Howard-era, pounced with all the subtlety of an overweight elephant falling from a tree. Having set the agenda, the rest of the papers had no option but to follow. Now we've endured 1001 days of grubby smears and empty gesticulation, a perpetually frothing, ejaculatory mess of news coverage that has quite potentially forever warped the relationship between the Fourth Estate and those they purport to keep in check. Policy? What policy? Even The Australian, our primary source of Federal political coverage for half a century, now buries its coverage so deep under a smarmy sludge of opinion and innuendo that it's hard to come out the other side without feeling like you're in need of a long, hot shower.
DAMMIT KEVIN13 DOESN’T EVEN FUCKEN RHYME #spill— Kevin Rudd (@KevinRuddExPM) March 21, 2013
"There will be a ballot for the party leadership at 430 PM. In the meantime, take your best shot." And that's how she announced it. A spill. Yet another chance for K-Rudd to take back that stolen from him. One feels the question is mostly academic. Had they done it last year, there might have a been a chance of retrieving the brand – both of Kevin Rudd and Labor. But the Party doubled down behind Gillard and dragged what remained of Rudd's reputation through a shallow pit of sewage. That people still, even after all of that, prefer Rudd by such a margin speaks volumes about how comprehensively Gillard and her team lost the public relations war. This entire period in our shared history will be a compulsory part of media courses for decades.
I considered waiting until after the ballot to post this piece, but the question of who comes out on top seems almost irrelevant. This story is more about the Labor Party itself and the decimation of its leadership, than it is of the actual leader. It's about a Party of apparatchiks that no longer has any idea what or who it stands for, and whose only purpose is the maintenance of its own power. It's a story about the hollowing out of our national media and their inability to properly represent the processes of our Government. A story about an Opposition willing to stoop to the most base tactics in the pursuit of power. A story about our Parliament's turn towards the politics of retribution and battle. It's a story about a lot of things, and the contest between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd isn't even one of them.
But whoever wins, godspeed. The Abbott Apocalypse is coming.