Don't Take it To Heart, Labor


Dear Labor,

C’mon. Turn that frown upside down. Things aren’t so bad, are they? All in all. When you look at the big picture. Taking the long-term view. I mean, compared to starving children in Africa, you guys are doing pretty well, really. Or compared to Burmese political prisoners. Maybe you could think of some more comparisons like this to cheer yourselves up.

I mean, yes, in political terms things look pretty dire, if you take the extremely narrow view that it is a negative for a political party to be torn apart by internal ructions and careening wildly towards a devastating electoral wipeout. But Labor, don’t take these things to heart. I know you think the Australian people hate you, but that’s only because they keep saying they do. But don’t look at your impending humiliating defeat as a rejection: look at it like that episode of the Cosby Show where Theo wants to quit school and move out of home. But Cliff and Claire knew that he wasn’t ready for that kind of independence. Think of the electorate as Cliff to your Theo, Labor: we’d love to see you governing the country, but we just don’t think you’re ready for it, so we need to sit down and have a nice long talk.

But like I said, it is not all doom and gloom. Doom, certainly, but the gloom should really be quite minimal. Last week’s events, which came as such a breath of fresh air to all of us who love the crazy stupid pointless side of federal politics, showed just how many blessings you in the ALP have to count right now.

First of all, it showed that Julia Gillard is TOUGH. My goodness isn’t she tough? Tough as nails. Tough as crocodile hide. Tough as an old boot wearing a Kevlar vest. She’s so tough you could drop a grand piano on her and she’d just get up and lecture it about misogyny. She’s so tough that professional boxers read her Wikipedia biography to prepare themselves for title bouts. She’s so tough that Mickey Rourke will play her in the movie of her life. She’s so tough that sharks break their teeth on her and Coles sells her at a discount in their meat section. She’s tough, is what I’m saying. As Chumbawamba sang, she gets knocked down, and she just pisses the night away.

And THAT, Labor, is something to be proud of. A lot of prime ministers have been not that tough. They go to water under pressure. They let themselves get pushed around and bullied. They sell out their core beliefs for the sake of political expediency, because they lack the sheer guts that Gillard brings to the job. She showed last week that she will NEVER back down from her principles, and she is a woman who believes fervently in the principle that she is the prime minister.  You have to admire a woman who so steadfastly refuses to budge from her commitment to keeping her job.

Second of all, last week’s brouhaha demonstrated that Labor is a party full of dedicated and hard-working people always willing to engage in a robust exchange of ideas. For example, the idea “KEVIN!” was robustly exchanged several times with the idea “JULIA!” Basically the ALP is a broad church and you should all be very proud of that. Contrast with the Liberal Party, which in its elitist way restricts its membership to supporters of the Liberal Party: in the Labor Party anyone is welcome: Labor supporters, Labor haters, Joel Fitzgibbon; literally anyone can join, and then stand for pre-selection, and then gain election to parliament, and then attempt to destroy the party from within. It’s all part of the rough and tumble of life in the modern ALP. And though one might have disagreed with combatants on either side of the leadership tussle, one can at least appreciate their passion, and accept that they are acting in good faith and out of a genuine desire to further certain unspecified goals.

But the greatest thing we’ve learned about you, Labor, is that you are in no way a shallow or materialistic party. Other parties may cynically chase votes, but in you we have a party of which we can truly say, you don’t know the meaning of the word “popularity”. And you don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk: last week the Australian Labor Party showed once and for all that petty things like winning elections don’t matter to it as much as staying true to oneself, sticking up for what’s right, and perpetuating meaningless factional hatreds. No wonder your slogan in the coming election campaign will be “Labor: We Didn’t Even See You There”. And what more could a voter want than a party that doesn’t constantly obsess about making them “happy”? God, you don’t want to look desperate.

So yes, Labor, you may be going to lose the election. And by that I mean that you are going to lose the election. I mean, you are REALLY going to lose the election. You are going to be crushed like bugs. You are going to be pureed like peas on MKR. Tony Abbott is going to beat you up so bad you’ll think you’re a wall at Sydney University. You are going to be stripped naked and horsewhipped through the streets of public opinion and when it’s finished you’ll be sitting in a corner rocking back and forth and whimpering about the invisible cockroaches crawling up your legs.

But what I say is, look on the bright side. Thanks to Julia Gillard’s staunch devotion to her own prime ministership, and her enemies’ staunch devotion to destroying her prime ministership, and Kevin Rudd’s staunch devotion to playing deadly psychological cat-and-mouse games with us all, and Simon Crean’s staunch devotion to looking a bit of a twat in public, you’ve bared your soul to us all, Labor. We know exactly what you’re all about. And a grateful nation thanks you. We can now go into this election with open eyes, full hearts, and hollow, mirthless laughs.

So chin up, Labor: things might seem grim right now, but remember: at least you’re not us.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.