Like many people, I was deeply moved by Kevin Rudd’s final press conference this week. I held my breath each time he paused, silently willing him to hold it together. I shed a tear when his voice trembled. And I also felt ashamed to be excited by the momentousness of the occasion, when I could see in High Definition the immense anguish it had wrought upon a man of faith and conviction, who was clearly loved by his wife and family.
Kevin Rudd’s world changed irrevocably in a matter of hours. That is the nature of politics – it is a huge and relentless beast, constantly in motion and oblivious to good intentions, time-honoured philosophies and the frailties of humankind. It hungrily and indiscriminately consumes hours, words and souls, all in the name of public good.
Some members of the commentariat have indulged in confected rage over Rudd’s treatment by “faceless apparatchiks”.
This is not so much because of empathy for Rudd, but because they feel affronted by the ruthless installation of an unelected Prime Minister purely in order to win the next election. This indignation is quite amusing to those who have worked within party machines. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a party cannot serve its electorate without first winning and then holding the Treasury benches. As my teenage daughter would say, “well, duh!!”
Rudd was not so much a victim of his party, but of politics itself. It is the undeniable preoccupation of any incumbent side to want to retain government and of the other side to wrench it from the incumbent’s grip. It is the undeniable preoccupation of the fourth estate to convey this struggle with as much drama as possible, while securing stories (or scalps) that differentiate them from their competitors.
Therefore the political beast can best be illustrated as something conjured by Dante. It is the sum of its many parts: politicans, parties, the parliament and media. Perhaps the irate journalists need to look in the mirror before they accuse others of having Rudd’s blood on their hands.
In conclusion, I want to say that I’ve been thinking about others who’ve been mauled by the political beast. Whether they first taunted the creature is another question altogether.
Does anyone ever spare a thought for Godwin Grech? I was distressed to hear recently that he is still hospitalized and that his house and possessions have been auctioned off.
I feel sad for people like John Brogden and Nick Sherry who will always carry the scars of their encounter with the beast.
And relieved that others like Grahame Morris and Cheryl Kernot survived their skirmishes relatively unscathed.
And finally I am in awe of people like Lindsay Tanner and Geoff Gallop, who have resolutely stood before the slavering creature, stared into its red maw, and then calmly walked away.