As I write, Australia is enjoying – if that’s the word – its first day with a new prime minister. Kevin Rudd should perhaps be more accurately described as a discredited old prime minister that they dragged out to try to salvage the wreckage from policies that he initiated and Julia Gillard exacerbated. That at least is my understanding from a long way away, and it could very easily be wrong. This morning in Britain, on the BBC Today programme, Alastair Campbell, newly returned from a book-promotion visit to Australia, summarised the happenings with all the balance you would expect from Tony Blair’s spin-doctor-in-chief. In the process he mentioned Gillard’s famous ‘misogynist’ speech, which he described as brilliant. Shall we see?
The background, as I understand it, to this speech is that the Speaker, Peter Slipper, has committed a gaffe in the form of an extremely off-colour sexist text message. Mechanisms for disciplining and possibly removing him are in motion, but Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition, has demanded his instant removal. Slipper and Abbott are old friends and former parliamentary allies, but Slipper has changed political allegiance and is now part of Gillard’s minuscule majority. Abbott’s haste therefore appears to be opportunistic.
Not for the first time I find myself watching a political speech with incredulity. My niche is business speaking, where every second costs money. Every political second costs money also, but it’s other people’s so it doesn’t matter. Here we have fifteen minutes of ranting, a self-indulgent grievance-fest, that could easily have been wrapped up in two – and been far more effective for it.
Should I be impressed that she shot it all from the hip, referring to paper only for the quotations? No: any politician should be able to do that. Should I luxuriate in the anaphora that begins at 7:00 and then morphs into an extended polysyndeton? No: it merely adds to the turgid verbosity. There’s another anaphora at 11:00 and yet another at 12:20 – ho-hum!
This is school playground stuff, couched in parliamentary language; and politicians wonder why the electorate is more and more holding them in contempt. Alastair Campbell is easily pleased.