In a courageous political move, Prime Minister Gillard has somewhat unilaterally exercised a prerogative to appoint a remarkably obscure outsider to the party to run its national organisation as National Secretary. The lucky one, George Wright, currently the chief spinner for the National Australia Bank, apparently took some persuading before agreeing to take on the role.
He was second choice after the first one, the somewhat less obscure former PM Chief of Staff Amanda Lampe, was ruled out after revered Labor Right chieftain Joe de Bruyn said what everyone else was thinking about her candidacy. A newly designated mum of two, she apparently didnâ€™t want the job but was willing to obey the PMâ€™s marching orders should they arrive. Commendable loyalty.
PhD FROM THE RUDD ACADEMY
Wrightâ€™s pedigree is that he hails from the Finance Sector Union before going to the ACTU and being one of many who now claim credit for their Your Rights At Work campaign against WorkChoices. Wright is a graduate of the notoriously effective but occasionally counter-productive Rudd spin-machine. A good spinner never becomes the story.
He is considered to be especially close to self-anointed leadership aspirant Greg Combet, who is keenly aware that time is probably not on his side. Nothing wrong with a bit of ambition, we say. The PMOâ€™s intervention on Wrightâ€™s behalf could well be seen as a pivotal moment in Combetâ€™s progression. â€œThey are political soul-mates,â€ one insider remarked. Fascinating.
Delighted with the appointment will be the ACTUâ€™s favoured communications provider Essential Media who stand to make millions from having their chum George Wright large and in charge at the National Secretariat. He will be keen to bring them in to manage all aspects of the next election campaign and will be ditching long-time pollster John Utting and other non EMC types. EMCâ€™s interesting polling on the public regard for Foreign Minister Rudd has recently raised eyebrows, with some wondering whether Rudd has dusted off his anti-Beazley playbook where Rudd had privately funded polling comparing his greatness with KBâ€™s prolix ways. Greg Sheridan, wise in all things except his affection for the dreaded Rudd, was even quoting Essential’s silly Rudd-spruiking polling in a column today most assuredly inspired directly from the FORMIN from hell. Tsk. Tsk. How EMC deals with the straddling of such a barbed-wire fence is a question that could only be answered with many hours deep reflection after re-watching every episode of ‘Absolute Power‘ in a weekend marathon.
The Your Rights at Work campaigners think they ran an Obama-style campaign of absolute and unparalleled genius in 2007 and that they will be keen on lending some of that magic to the 2013 re-election bid. Some in the National Right are more than a little sceptical of this but many are keen to see it in action because it could be good for a laugh.
ITâ€™S GUY FAULKS
Further potential amusement â€“ of the gallowsâ€™ humour variety â€“ could arise when John Faulknerâ€™s proposed NSW-Right-busting moves come to be considered later in the year. Rules changes, national intervention and other carnal delights dreamed up by Albo, Faulks and others over high tea at the SCG will all apparently be enthusiastically embraced by the new party secretary designate.
While Wright is regarded as a bold choice, some say his role as a spinner for NABâ€™s bank fees and interest fee policy equips him well in the art of defending the indefensible.
Some see the carbon tax as approaching that level of difficulty although we suspect rolling back the tax and its compensations is going to be just as fraught with danger for the Coalition, emboldened as they currently are and buoyed by Newspolls.
CHINESE-STYLE DEMOCRACY SERVED PIPING HOT IN SUSSEX STREET
Nominations for the position are expected to open tomorrow with Mr Wright considered likely to be the only nominee, in the spirit of democratic openness encouraged by John Faulkner, presumably after a junket to Beijing.
The PMâ€™s public declaration of support for him was clearly calculated to ensure that he was the only candidate and because â€œdisunity is deathâ€ in politics as John Howard famously declared it seems likely the old trick will succeed.
The only reason the situation arose, of course, was that the dominant moderates made an absolute debacle of selecting and getting behind one candidate. The withdrawal of one, the failure to get behind another, a willingness to be seen to disagree, all contributed to what amounts to be a very, very sorry state of affairs for the folk who are meant to supply the pragmatic, â€œwhatever it takesâ€ smarts of Australiaâ€™s centre-left party. We honour many of them for being the best and brightest but this was not their finest hour. Itâ€™s fair to say also that the Prime Minister has also not been seen to honour the strong support given to her by Laborâ€™s moderates. This seems most unwise to us.
Whether having a Prime Ministerâ€™s Office lackey in the Nat Sec job will help her party succeed in winning the next incredibly difficult federal election remains to be seen. Similar case studies in other jurisidictions are not encouraging. Many observers were left wondering this evening â€œCan a man with no base in the party be a successful party secretary?â€ Theyâ€™re about to find out.