Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Poisoned Chalice

In what was always the only possible outcome, Bernie Riordan has resigned as New South Wales President of the Labor Party. In doing so, he has accused the Premier of an over-reaction, and indicated that if it were not for the approaching election his decision would have been different. But, in the end, there was no other choice. To be presiding over a union which has published a statement that it will not support the Labor government makes it impossible to also remain Party President. The two positions are simply impossible to reconcile. It doesn’t matter that he was not personally responsible for the remarks, or that he did not authorise them. It only matters that it created an unacceptable appearance of disunity within the party.

At the same time, that is really only part of the story. In fact, it is the tip of the proverbial iceberg, with the disaffection between Mr. Riordan and a succession of Premiers itself symptomatic of significant tensions between the unions and the parliamentary Labor Party. In particular, the internal war over the plans to privatise the electricity sector has taken its toll with Bob Carr, Morris Iemma and Nathan Rees all becoming casualties in one way or another. It’s no surprise that all three of those former Premiers have been so vocal in their support and praise for current Premier Kristina Keneally, and in Mr. Rees’ case that is in itself a remarkable result.

It was Mr. Rees who famously predicted, on the day before he was deposed, that whoever was his successor would be a puppet of the party powerbrokers. By contrast, Kristina Keneally has not only grasped the poisoned chalice with steady hands, but she has effectively flung its contents back into the faces of her critics. Time and again, she has dealt with the fallout of a party apparently bent on self destruction in a firm and decisive manner. Dealing with the matter of Bernie Riordan has been no different, and she has attracted more admirers in the process. Finally, the New South Wales Labor Party seems to have a leader who knows how to take charge.

What a pity the party she has been asked to lead is in such a sorry state of disarray.

No comments: