Saturday, October 15, 2005

Pancreatic Duck

So to the book every bleary Aussie is reading – the Latham Diaries – unlike most political memoirs, an actual bestseller, more than 13,000 copies gone in the first week – second only to the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet (19,800 copies) and way ahead of the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records (7,800).

Latham has consistently seemed quite consistently inconsistent and largely loathsome in his posturing and spouting on the Australian political stage – a rather unfortunate mix of arrogance, intolerance, inexperience, misplaced self-confidence, lack of self knowledge and vulgarity.

But in his diaries, attempting an approximation of the truth, he is occasionally unexpectedly honest and insightful. Certainly the fundamental structural flaws of the Australian Labor Party are spelt out clearly: with seats in parliament in the vice-like grip of a tiny group of increasingly irrelevant back-room union fringe manipulators, success at the ballot box and in government has to be achieved in spite of the political talent pool rather than because of it.

These days, most of us don’t belong to unions. Maybe we should, but we just don’t. So the contemporary voice of the left (or even just the voice of those of us who can't stomach John Howard's immigration policy) really urgently needs another forum which doesn’t rely on corrupted Fabian dreams. Which, according to the Gospel According to Mark, just isn't going to happen.

It helps that he writes well with a larrikin sense of humour and is no respecter of dignity or privacy. It’s a rambunctious read, and while it may not help your waistline, it sure has helped his, and the world’s shortest political picnic is of considerably more interest than the world’s longest picnic table.

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