The burden of attending endless work-related Christmas and Chanukah parties this time of year can be a bit much for even the most social of butterflies.
And so it is that astute staffer for Victorian Labor Senator David Feeney, Stephen Donnelly, who was the long-time Andy Lee to politicsâ€™ Megan Gale in the fine form of federal minister Kate Ellis, devised a very cunning plan to escape one function.
Word has it that after exhaustive negotiations for a joint Christmas function between the two Victorian right that a cheery email was sent out to bring the Labor Unity faction together with the group sometimes called the â€œRebel Rightâ€.
Rebel Right de facto leader David Feeney does not exactly model himself on the life and times of Che Guevara so he has long disputed the appellation leading to the great factional naming dispute between Labor Unity and those not in Labor Unity.
It gets a bit confusing at this point for new readers so it might be best explained that there was one large ALP faction Labor Unity which then became a somewhat smaller group after a number of disagreements particularly focused on the desire of some to replace the then Victorian ALP State Secretary Stephen Newnham with one of their own or someone more agreeable to then Premierâ€™s Chief of Staff Dan Oâ€™Brien.
So by a process some dispute, those craving the removal of Newnham left (or were excluded from depending on your point of view) the Labor Unity group and formed what we mostly call the Rebel Right or the NUW/SDA/HSU group. Some in Labor Unity say that because their group was instituted on the basis of beheading Brother Newnham that it is only right and proper to refer such an extremist clan as â€œthe Talibanâ€. A little harsh but amusing all the same.
The Rebels though have never really accepted this naming situation. One wag, believed to be the wily union leader Dean Mighell, called those remaining in Labor Unity the â€œShortConsâ€ because the group centred around Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy. So that name stuck for a while amongst the Rebels although has since mostly fallen into disuse, particularly as their group has stayed relatively unified while the Rebels often seemed to descend into three warring tribes of NUW, SDA and Feeney aligned forces who run their own tickets in most internal ALP elections, including the recent state caucus ballot.
Many see the decisive move in resolving the naming dispute being the inspired decision to register an incorporated association â€œLabor Unity Inc.â€ perhaps the first time an ALP faction had been so immortalised. Feeney, one of very few people to care at all about the name of his group, was believed to be furious he hadnâ€™t thought of this first and for a time briefly considered consulting a trademark attorney. (just kidding about the trademark attorney)
So to cut a long story only slightly shorter than unbearable, it came to pass that a joint Christmas function of these two groups who cannot agree on what to call each other was arranged for this Wednesday evening past.
An email was sent out to members of Labor Unity urging their attendance:
SUBJECT: Labor Unity
DATE: Dec 7
Dear Labor Unity Member,
You are cordially invited to the traditional Victorian Right Christmas
Drinks on Wednesday the 15th of December.
Drinks shall be at bar prices.
What: Victorian Right Christmas Drinks.
Where: Upstairs at the Imperial Hotel on the corner of Bourke and Spring Street.
When: The 15th of December (Wednesday evening) from 6:30pm.
Yours in Unity
Not exactly an embossed invitation to Government House but it did the job.
Shortly after this email was sent to the Rebel Right email list which includes a number of people who side with Labor Unity. It was quickly shared around dismayed comrades.
From: Labor Unity
Date: 07/12/2010 04:39 PM
Subject: Joint Christmas Drinks Invitation
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year for 2011!
Labor Unity is seeing out 2010 with Christmas Drinks at the Imperial Hotel
– in partnership with our subsidiary brothers and sisters in little Labor
Where – The Imperial Hotel, Corner Bourke & Spring Sts, Melbourne
When – From 7.30pm on Wednesday 15th December
We look forward to seeing you there!
Given the Rebel Right had enthusiastically sought the opportunity to sink pots and quaff cocktails with their Labor Unity frenemies, many in Labor Unity thought this email a little aggressive and insulting in the circumstances, pointing to the ongoing use of Labor Unityâ€™s name and reference to â€œour subsidiary brothers and sisters in little Labor Unity.â€
It was a term weâ€™d not heard before and in politics â€“ unlike some other pursuits â€“ size really does count.
We heard there was quite a disturbance in the Force following the Donnelly email with a number of Labor Unity MPs and other notables saying they would not be attending after the slur.
Others yet said they were still annoyed about the Rebel Rightâ€™s behaviour in the state caucus and on the Administrative Committee where apparently the stylish HSUâ€™s national secretary Kathy Jackson had a lot of fun last night decreeing in response to suggestions that ALP affiliated unions might kick in some more money to make up for CPI or something that she â€œwouldnâ€™t be giving you f*ckers (ie the ALP) any more money.â€ With her famous industrial laser-strength death-stare turned to high-beam Jackson took particular glee apparently in revelling in the surprise state election result, so much so that it was presumed by some sheâ€™d been part of the eastern suburbs big swing to the conservatives. When reference was made to the â€œLeaderâ€™s officeâ€ each time she would pipe in with â€œyou mean Opposition Leaderâ€™s office.â€ It was quite the display apparently.
Some assumed sheâ€™d had a few pre-Admin cocktails and was drunk but thatâ€™s just how the formidable Kathy rolls, you donâ€™t really want to be on her bad side, many say. And it seems the previous state government was not in her good books despite regular invitations to the Grand Prix VIP room. The management of stakeholders on the conservative side of town was obviously quite good in the Brumby show but it seems the HSU felt more than a bit unloved. This always struck us as a pretty stupid situation for the previous government to have got itself in, especially given how they bent over backwards to keep the militant construction union the CFMEU happy.
Anyway, on the morning before the planned Chrissy drinks, which the famed VEXNEWS Investigations Unit had planned to closely monitor, this email was sent out by Labor Unityâ€™s secretariat:
SUBJECT: Labor Unity
DATE: Dec 14
Dear Labor Unity Member,
Due to clashes with other events and the high number of apologies in the lead-up to Christmas, we have had to cancel the Labor Unity drinks scheduled for Wednesday 15th December.
Yours in Unity
Many frantic phone calls followed as attempts were made to remove the bitter taste from the Christmas Egg Nog but it was not to be.
Because Brother Donnelly so rarely puts a foo
t wrong, it was widely assumed he had a hot date or something on the Wednesday night and was displeased about interrupting his lovinâ€™ with attendance at a boring drinks night with a bunch of suits, frenemies, unemployed ministerial staff and others looking for a shouted cider.
If that was Donnellyâ€™s plan, it was executed absolutely magnificently. We are yet to hear how his Wednesday night went.