International media last week (and continuing into this) was concentrated on the presidential elections in Iran and the death of Michael Jackson. Both are engrossing, for very different reasons. Iran needs to release the remaining British Embassy staff asap (or Downing Street will write them a very angry letter) and the latest I’ve heard about Michael Jackson is that his body will go on public display in Neverland. Weird. But with all that going on, the story I was most interested in was going on in the Australian Parliament House. The press dubbed it Utegate.
For those not in or from Australia:
The leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, got his hands on some information which indicated that a car dealer had most likely received preferential treatment from the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and possibly from the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. The evidence against the Treasurer was firm, and if used could score minor political points. That against the PM was shaky – an email and the word of a public servant – but if true it could seriously damage the government.
Turnbull took a huge risk and decided to ride the wave towards Rudd’s jugular, attacking the PM’s integrity and calling on him to resign if he had misled the Australian people. Unfortunately, the email the attack was based on was a fake. The wave Turnbull was riding disappeared, leaving him high in the air with a bare bum and his legs kicking wildly.
I enjoyed two things about this story. The first was watching the Government’s response to the attack on their leader. It was very impressive. Turnbull had stood up and delicately slapped the Prime Minister with a frilly white glove, calling him out for a little fisticuffs behind the shed at recess. The Government replied by picking up a house and dropping it on Turbull’s head. Then then they set the house on fire.
But the most satisfying was seeing the damage to the Opposition and Turnbull’s leadership of it. He showed a real lack of political nous, and a great deal of arrogance and stubbornness and this will not endear him to the Australian public at all. For me, this inexperience and arrogance has characterised his term as opposition leader. In a way it’s a shame, because I initially thought that with some patience and four or five years experience in Opposition, he was going to be Australia’s next (Big L) Liberal Prime Minister. As it stands he’ll be lucky if he contests the next election.
Over the weekend there were a couple of wonderful articles in the Sydney Morning Herald about Turnbull and Utegate. One of them had the fantastic illustration I’ve used in this post, which is by Walkley award-winning cartoonist John Shakespeare.