In an astounding development that has left the holidaying world of state politics gob-smacked, multi-millionaire pinko MLC Evan Thornley has retired.
Insiders tell VEXNEWS that he has been offered a job in Europe of some exotic kind. We’d rule out belly dancing but few are aware what could have tempted him. The story of a job makes very little sense to us given that on a conservative estimate the bloke is down to his last $50 million. Unless Mr Sarkozy has appointed him head of the Foreign Legion, one cannot imagine any offer of employment outweighing a Cabinet ministry. Perhaps we should get out more and expose ourselves to the kinds of offers one can receive on mega-yachts off the French coast but even still if you’ve got the politics bug, it’s very hard to shake in an irritating flu-like way, and we cannot comprehend why Thornley withdrew just at the point that he was going to get what he wanted.
A Cabinet position. A lock on a safer seat most probably. Positioning his derriere for Hotham when the Crean finally shuffles off. It all seemed very well set for the gent, much to our displeasure.
Other recent Thornley gossip (only some of which is initiated here in the Spiv Busting Unit of our VEXNEWS Centre) includes trouble at home of a Peachy kind, potential exposure to the sub-prime crisis in his secretive investment portfolio, medical troubles associated with gluttony and a general sense of malaise about the political caper.
Problem with all that gossip/theory is that as late as Saturday, Thornley was ringing the chaps and comradettes in the caucus and politely soliciting support. Backed with the Premier’s blessing, he was an absolute lock for the position despite opposition from Martin Pakula, a vastly superior candidate who even appeared to have the numbers but out of a sense of loyalty to the Premier was reluctant to contest without his support.
Something got in the way. Perhaps a better offer. Perhaps a skeleton from the back of his closet. Perhaps a distaste for the vulgarities of public life, being criticised by the likes of Brendan Donohue for driving the Beemer to work.
Martin Pakula has been lucky. But credit where it’s due, Pakula will be rewarded for his righteous and disciplined behaviour since the sudden Christmas Eve Cabinet vacancy occurred after Theo Theophanous announced his retirement. He couldn’t have played it better, in retrospect.
While it’s not certain, at this stage he’ll be up against a sub-factional ally Matt Viney, who enjoys a close relationship with upper house leader John Lenders. Less well known about Viney was that he is blamed by some Brumby backers for leaking damaging polling about Brumby way back in 1999 when there was plotting against Brumby’s first Labor leadership. Whether that counts against him still is hard to know. If we were occupying the $4200 seats in 1 Treasury Place, we’d probably not care who dudded us ten years ago. Or would we?
Anyway, patriots of all sub-factions and factions have expressed delight at this news. Thornley certainly cut an odd and somewhat isolated figure in caucus. Very interested in politics – to be sure – but not really one of the brothers. He did everything right at one level, joined the right faction, cultivated the right patrons (John Lenders is a great person to have in your corner) but for all that seemed to appear displeased most of the time by many of his colleagues.
He saw himself as a giant among pygmies, something he made increasingly the case by expanding his girth considerably during his two year Parliamentary stint.
It would be wrong to say he wasn’t ambitious or thrusting in the place either. He spoke a lot in the chamber. Many say he spoke well. He employed extra researchers to ensure he appeared well-read and serious. He was full of ideas, some random and stupid, but full of it all the same.
So in a world of cock-ups and conspiracies, we are left searching for an explanation. Maybe we’ll never get it because Thornley was so isolated from his party, so disconnected from his colleagues. They sensed his ambition, some found him impressive on first meeting but lacking thereafter. They had little in common. While he was friendly enough to many of them, we haven’t found a caucus colleague with whom he was close. And maybe that is part of the explanation, the Rosebud in this other drama about the megalomaniac millionaire, he just didn’t like or ever gel with his colleagues. And Spring Street – just like Parliament House – can be like a boarding school.
We’ll perhaps never know, our planned story on the complex personal life of the new minister is now on hold, our planned axe attack after his elevation indefinitely postponed. The man whose political demise we sought so much has now done that to himself. There are so many implications. The perils of “star candidates” highlighted once more. An increase in the pro Tim Holding NUW group’s representation. A chance for a big reshuffle because Pakula could take on more of former Minister Theophanous’s duties more credibly than Thornley could have.
But one thing cuts through it all in the discussions about this latest summer-time bombshell in state political-land, why? Why has he really gone? What scandal lurks? Opportunity beckons? It makes no sense, yet is delicious in its confusion.
There is little left to do but to turn do the triumphal music, find a local pub and celebrate this small victory over spivdom, pinko-ness and latte sipping. It’s all over bar the shouting.