Misogyny behind Gillard’s political exit is a disgrace to every Australian
Australia’s political landscape is bereft not only of ideology but also of ideas
Outgoing Australian prime minister Julia Gillard speaks to journalists following her defeat in the Labor Party leadership ballot in Canberra last Wednesday. Photograph: Mark Graham/Bloomberg
‘I think what’s underlain [sic] Labor’s problems is not basically issues of personality. The issues of personality are a product of the disconnection of the Labor Party from its traditional base. And that’s a process that’s been going on for some decades, and it’s gone a very long way.”
Not, as you might suppose, one of this country’s seasoned Labour Party watchers, who had a busy time of it last week what with party chairman Colm Keaveney resigning from his post as full-time thorn in the side and a whole lot else. That quote is taken from an interview with Rick Kuhn, professor of politics at Australian National University, cited in the New York Times. Prof Kuhn was talking about the resignation of Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, after she had been ousted as Labor Party leader by her old mate (just kidding) Kevin Rudd. She had come to power in 2010 by ousting him when she was his deputy prime minister.
Before we turn to the stinking, rotten, puerile misogyny which Gillard endured during her tenure as prime minister, it’s worth looking at the next sentence from Prof Kuhn. He’s talking about the problems of Labour in the modern world. He is talking, as we all are, in a political landscape free not just of ideology but of ideas.
“The shift has come under Rudd and gone further under Gillard and that has meant that the main focus has been on whose face attracts the most attention rather than policies that really intersect with the people who’ve provided the bulk of Labor’s support really since the 1890s.”
Gender as flaw
This is the unexplored issue behind the end of Gillard’s career (she has said that she is resigning from politics and who can blame her?): our political system doesn’t provide debate any more, only abuse. In the absence of conviction, the targeted politician is attacked for what are perceived to be weaknesses. In Australia it is regarded as a weakness to be female.
And we need not be too smug about this. It looks like the next leader of our own Labour Party could be female – God willing and with a following wind – and Joan Burton has already been subjected to the sort of criticism and sneering no male politician here has had to endure.
Gillard herself is a cool customer. She’s a lawyer, but otherwise seems pretty sound. Her head of communications, John McTernan, who went to work for her having previously been a senior adviser to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Harriet Harman (I know, I know) wrote last Saturday of how “her sense of self, of calm, was never rocked or rattled”.