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Vampire fiction with added Kevin

I’m a sucker for a book by a political insider and so devoured the latest book from Troy Bramston, a former speechwriter for Kevin Rudd. Rudd, Gillard and Beyond is short — only 165 pages — but is an excellent addition to the genre of books about Labor that Bob Carr calls “vampire fiction”.

Many of the authors, of course, have written with one hand on the keyboard and the other firmly covering their arses, rewriting history to make their own contribution shine brightly. But Bramston’s is different — this is his sixth book about the Labor Party, and he brings the talents of a party historian and a professional writer to a compelling narrative.

Only an insider could write about the last days of Rudd in 2010, “Innocent conversations about the state of the government had to be conducted in secrecy. It was like living in Caligula’s Rome; you didn’t know what would happen if Rudd found out.”

Another insight comes from the last day of the 2013 election campaign, when Rudd sent out an automated, pre-recorded message of thanks to the national campaign staff saying, “we have changed the way election campaigns are run in Australia”.

“You’re damn right, Kevin,” was the reply. “We will never run a fucking campaign like this again. It’s been a complete fucking shambles.”

Bramston, now a columnist for The Australian newspaper (and stellar tweeter), was expertly interviewed about the book last night by ABC political reporter Annabel Crabb at a Q and A in Sydney. He said he had joined Rudd’s staff just after Rudd became opposition leader in 2006. At that time, visiting UK strategist John McTernan told the young speechwriter that the ALP would win the 2007 election despite the fact that it was Labor — the party was depending on Rudd to get it over the line because it was hollow at the core.

“The power of Rudd’s personality was the attraction to the electorate. And when Rudd started to falter, there was nothing left,” Bramston said.

Paul Keating said that the problem for Rudd was that he wasn’t “tribal Labor”. Gillard was the direct opposite, the author said. “People like her, and she understood the tribal rhythms of the ALP that Kevin did not.” Two days after the leadership change, a senior Labor person told him “if only Rudd had had a few Chinese meals with half-a-dozen trade union figures, he’d still be leader”.

The book reproduces, for the first time, an email sent by Gillard to Rudd three days before the challenge. In it, she outlines all the government’s problems, mainly to do with the chaotic processes with the PM’s office, and contains a list of things that needed to be done to turn around the plummeting opinion polls. She says that the government is facing defeat because it is perceived to be “incompetent” and “out of control”. The email is obviously written in haste and contains a few typos.

Bramston said last night that the email was evidence supporting her assertion that the coup was not premeditated and that she had only made up her mind to challenge on the day.

“I am very sympathetic to Julia Gillard and the position she was in, she was trying to fix the problems. But she realised three days later that she couldn’t fix them and had to become prime minister.”

He also offered what Crabb described as a comprehensive “lift-door analysis” of the two leaders. If you went to a function with Rudd, he would go around and speak to all the people he had to speak to; once the lift doors had closed, he would simply say, “where are we going next?” Bramston said. But if you went to one with Gillard, inside the lift, she would quiz the staffers on what they’d eaten, to whom they’d spoken and how they’d found the night. “In many ways [Rudd’s behaviour] is inhuman,” he said.

With several interviews with former Labor leaders and senior figures, the book also offers a roadmap for reform.

“The key tasks for Labor … are threefold: to recognise why the party lost the 2013 election and to learn from its experiences; to chart a course to the centre ground of politics and articulate a new vision and policy platform; and to continue to reform the party so it is more connected to the electorate, can attract better candidates and has the capacity to campaign for its goals.”

Asked if the ALP had a future, Bramston said there were encouraging signs of reform, pointing to a story he’d written for today’s Australian about Vivien Thomson, a farmer, rural firefighter and president of the Country Women’s Association being endorsed as a New South Wales Senate candidate. Thomson joined the party five years ago because she supported its policies on women, climate change and the National Broadband Network and has been endorsed by the NSW Right faction for a winnable position.

In the next few months, there will be an avalanche of political books being released, perhaps with the important Fathers’ Day date in mind. Tomes by Gareth Evans, Mark Latham, Greg Combet and Bob Brown will hit the bookshelves, together with a book from key former independent Tony Windsor.

Paul Kelly is adding to the vampire genre with a book called The Labor Party, Anatomy of a Tragedy, and if you need a gift for someone you really hate, then there’s always the upcoming biographies of Kevin Rudd and Joe Hockey. The one we’ve all been waiting for, Gillard’s My Story, will be released in October. Too much politics is never enough.


20 responses to “Vampire fiction with added Kevin

  1. “The party was depending on Rudd to get it over the line because it was hollow at the core”
    There has been some improvement in this area over the years since 2007 but, maybe not as much as with the current LNP, they have a lot still to do.

    However, it is a lot to ask that Kevin could have filled the hollow on his own in the years 2007-2010, and for that matter in the few months in 2013.

    So it is not a surprise with that organisational depth of quality issue, together with the fact that he did not have the same ruthless manipulative cunning, the back-pack full of favours, and the persistence and killer instinct that made Keating so successful, and, with the resistance and obstruction he was getting from within the Party and the lack of assistance/support from at least half of his executive team that the Government was not the ‘well oiled machine’ it needed to be leading up to the Party destroying coup he experience.

    There are still be problems in the Opposition under Shorten but Labor looks ‘slick’ compared to the mess the Current LNP Government is in.

    It will be interesting to read the books written about the Abbott/Hockey/Turnbull/Morrison years of Government and compare them to the books due out this year.

    Interesting times.

  2. P+iss off! Gerard, you have been completely manipulated by the Murdoch media rubbish. If you believe all that nonsense, then I feel sorry for you.
    Should only take a few years to see which one of us is correct, and I predict it won’t be you. Every economist worth their salt, world-wide, has praised the Rudd government’s handling of the GFC. Would you care to tell me the source of your comments – other than the extreme right-wing press such as Ltd News?

  3. @ DOG’S B….. Bullsh++!! If Rudd hadn’t regained the leadership, the 2013 election would have been a bloodbath. You can sing the praises of Gillard as much as you like, but electorally she was a disaster for Labor, deserved or otherwise.
    And I believe you are wrong about Rudd’s place in history. After the dust settles in a few years time, he will be credited with some very good initiatives. For example – The apology to the stolen generations and his government’s performance during the GFC, to name just two.
    Perhaps you could consider commenting on the Oz websites. They would welcome you with open arms there!!

    1. Saving us form the G.F.C. is complete rubbish – look at the national accounts- Labour did nothing to save us form the G.F.C for it was China and her demand for our coal and iron ore that kept people employed.

      Labor and Rudd wasted money on fatal pink bats programs, education revolutions that revolutionised nothing, failing in health care reform, C.O.A.G. reform, he did not delivery one medicare super-clinic. The $1billion in stimulus spending was wasted on Chinese made televisions sold by Harvey Norman, giving no impact to our domestic focused economic activity.

      Rudd wasted waves of money, borrowed form overseas to employ legions of costly public servants in Canberra. He created useless and costly quangos and departments that consumed billions of dollars, but delivered no lasting benefit to the country. He pursued all manner of useless policies and programs, wasting tax payer money everywhere he went – with no lasting benefit to to the Australian economy.

      Rudd was simply waste waste and more waste, fueled by borrowed money – $600 billion in debt that future Australians will have to pay off.

      Labor gorged on debt, leaving no benefit, reform or infrastructure to justify the $600 billion they wasted.

      Labor span this line of ‘saving Australia from the G.F.C” to try and save their bacon in 201023, as they knew Rudd left them with political and economic disaster going into the election.

      Labor and Rudd did nothing to save us form the G.F.C: Like Whitlam before him, Rudd toured the world telling himself and anyone prepared to listen how wonderful he was. History will show that Rudd was a fool, and a budget wrecker, just like that earlier labor fool; Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

      1. Hi Gerard,
        One significant error in your comment – “borrowed form overseas”.
        An Australian Government does not borrow money from overseas. Has not done so for many many decades. Do not confuse ‘borrowing’ with the sale of Bonds. The money the Australian Government uses is money from its own bank, the Reserve Bank, who facilitate the ‘creation of money’ through the commercial banks.
        Where you might be confused is that it is the Private and non Government debt that has been sourced from overseas because the Government has restricted the availability of the Australian dollar to the rest of us (by cutting government expenditure to achieve ‘a surplus’)

        The private/State and Local Government/Corporate debt in this country is our major problem.

        This leads to your second significant error. The amount of money spent by the Australian Government during the GFC under Labor actually reduced the private debt and if they continued spending on infrastructure and job creating projects, instead of changing course, they could have reduced the significant damage done to the overall economy during the Howard/Costello years.

        The money spent was not ‘a waste’ as you say it was a way to reverse the faulty neo liberal economic management that started back with Keating.

        Both Labor and LNP have got us to where we are now, but for a few years there was a chance, with the direction Rudd, and for a while Swan, was taking us, that we could have got out of the mess.

        That stimulus , in my opinion, will be what Rudd will most be given credit in the future. I hope we do not have to wait too long for that recognition to happen because under the current lot we are going ‘to Hell in a hand basket’ at a great rate of knots.

  4. I confess it’s hard to believe that Annabel Crabb is capable of expertly interviewing anybody really. She jumped the shark with her cooking shows (*cringe*)
    As far as I’m concerned she belongs in the Jacqueline Maley fairy floss category of journalism

  5. ‘Two days after the leadership change, a senior Labor person told him “if only Rudd had had a few Chinese meals with half-a-dozen trade union figures, he’d still be leader”.’

    This bit is telling. Forget all that nonsense about how Rudd was removed because he was mean, the government was out of control, blah blah blah. He was removed because he didn’t have any pull with the factional heavyweights who pick the leader.

  6. Having watched Bramston for awhile on Sky News programs he was nothing but scathing about Julia Gillard When Gillard was in office he was keen to denigrate her leadership, her policies and her government. It was no surprise to see him join The Australian. Like Graham Richardson its hard to take his protestations seriously about having any affinity for the Labor party.

  7. I agree, Ian. Sounds like another Rudd-bashing exercise to me, by those who should know better.
    When are these ‘insiders’ going to get it through their thick skulls – the public liked Rudd, they did NOT like Gillard.
    History tells us that ANY very good leader to emerge from the Labor pack will be destroyed by the powerful in this country – especially those from the far right fac+st media.
    The fact that Bramston now works for Murdoch completely destroys his credibility on ANYTHING he has to say about Kevin Rudd and the Labor party.

    1. Agreed.
      I keep hearing stories about what a prick he was to work for. What, like Howard or Keating were a barrel of fun to be around? Show me someone who changes their vote according to how a politician treats public servants and I’ll show you a public servant. I don’t mean anything pejorative about that, it’s just that no-one else gives a toss and nor should they.

      None of this is any criticism of Gillard. She did extremely well but the behind-the-scenes deals she was so good at making don’t get seen by the public and again, nor should they. The biggest problem Labor had after the first spill was that they shat themselves after a couple of bad polls and spent the next three years pretending it never happened.

  8. If Labor is to survive it must move to the Left, not the Centre. The Centre in Australia has been established by Murdoch et al well to the Right of the real Centre.

  9. And sorry, Margot, but I would take anything written by an employee of Chairman Rupert with a HUGE grain of salt.

    1. The reason Labor lost 2013 is because they deserved to. They were a total shambles, they didn’t mean anything and they still don’t.
      The issue is that the Coalition didn’t deserve to win either, but unfortunately they flooded in because they were ‘the other guy’.

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