Friday, January 23, 2009

Handing The Knife To Brutus

It’s difficult not to start feeling a little sympathy for New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees. At every turn there are people like me who have already written off the re-election prospects of the government. But that is just a minor nuisance compared to the virtual insurrection which has been bubbling away within his own cabinet. Having been appointed to lead the party only a few months ago, the very people who appointed him seem to be having difficulty with the idea of actually following. But then, maybe they weren’t expecting him to actually think for himself.

Reports have emerged that the Premier has summoned the ring leaders behind the alleged plot to replace him with Frank Sartor, and told them to stop the white-anting. He is reported to have said, “I’m sick to death of me and my Cabinet being forced into these distractions which frankly are an irrelevance to the people of New South Wales.” And he’s right. It is an irrelevance to the people, who don’t care who is Premier so long as the schools can teach our children, the hospitals and treat our sick, and the trains, buses and ferries all run on time.

The people of New South Wales are not even remotely interested in the Labor Party drawing straws to see whose turn it is to be Premier. The people are fed up with the inability of the government to deliver on promises which are made by one Premier and then withdrawn by the next. The people no longer trust or believe that the government is able to manage the affairs of the state. For that to stand any chance of ever changing, first the government must demonstrate that it can manage itself.

The Premier was also quoted as saying, “I simply will not allow this to continue. Disunity is death and anyone (who) doesn’t understand that shouldn’t be in politics.” While that might be true at some level, there is always disunity in politics. The true art of politics is drawing together a range of divergent and sometimes conflicting interests and somehow managing to create a working consensus. Unfortunately for Nathan Rees, you don’t achieve that just by wishing for it, or even demanding it. It has to be imposed, not by force, but by the engagement and enrollment of all players.

The fact is that people like John Della Bosca have been in politics for a lot longer than Nathan Rees. He, and his accused co-conspirators, know that unity doesn’t count for a damn thing if nobody votes for you. That’s why they may still be prepared to back a new horse between now and the election. Whatever Nathan Rees might tell them about unity, discipline and loyalty won’t make the slightest difference if there isn’t some sign that his leadership is attracting votes.

Whether it is said that Nathan Rees is not providing effective leadership, or that his colleagues are not providing effective support, ultimately amounts to the same thing. They will lose the election. No wonder the Premier is so keen to promote John Robertson to the cabinet… he doesn’t appear to have many friends there at the moment. Of course, John Robertson is also spoken of as a future Premier, so perhaps even that could be seen as handing the knife to Brutus.

No comments: