Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Satanic Diaries

So Mark Latham has written a book in which he has sprayed former ALP colleagues across the factional spectrum and blamed them for his downfall.

So what?

Yes, it is big news for the ALP, who have finally found their own Salman Rushdie. Latham’s diaries are perhaps the closest thing to the Satanic Verses, and already numerous Shadow Ministers have issued fatwas against him.

But does that mean I should part with $35? I don’t think so.

I saw the Latham interview on the ABC Lateline show with Tony Jones last Friday night. Was it all that exciting? Certainly not as gripping as the Sydney Swans defeating St Kilda. I prefer real football to the political one.

I realise Melbourne readers may not take this too well, but I reckon the Sydney Swans showed far more heroism and fair play on Sunday night than the former Labor leader. Yes, both the Swans and Latham came up from behind. But The Swans heroically defeated St Kilda while Latham just kept stabbing the Federal Opposition in the back.

And when it comes to political thrillers, I think I could probably write more exciting memoirs of my 8 years organising and stacking branches for the non-Left faction in the NSW Young Liberals.

Those were the days when I was the political lovechild of Bronwyn Bishop and David Clarke (and no, I am in no way suggesting they were having a relationship). Bronwyn Bishop recently described me as a bomb thrower in Parliament. She is right. I was her bomb thrower. I threw her factional bombs at the likes of the small “l” liberals, especially her nemesis John Brogden.

Bronwyn was absolutely paranoid about Brogden. They shared many branches, and often had the same set of preselectors. As such, there was plenty of focus on doing numbers against J-Bro (as we often called him satirically).

But when Bronwyn started harping on about schoolgirls wearing pieces of cloth on their heads as a sign of rebellion, I realised she was trying to play wedge politics to please the little old ladies in her branches who had one more preselection to vote for her before entering their nursing homes.

And John tried to kill himself after a nasty factional leak, I knew that my former factional colleagues had gone too far.

Liberal factionalism is life-and-death stuff. Then again, so is ALP factionalism. But I want to ask you and myself some honest questions.

Is this the way to make important decisions in this country? Is this how we want to see our state and nation ruled?

How can we expect good government when political leaders spend so much time ducking for cover? And when political staffers spend tax payers’ money stacking branches and spreading rumours about internal political opponents?

When a young man of my age finds the entire circus so stressful that he feels like taking his own life, surely this must represent a wake-up call. Yet it seems that for the likes of Latham and Co, gossip and innuendo is a superb way to make money and continue one’s 5 minutes of fame.

But back to the Satanic Diaries. I am thinking I might buy a copy. But I hope Mr Latham will allow me the pleasure of waiting a few months before they hit the shelves at a heavily discounted price at Basement Books beneath Sydney’s Central Station. Until then, I’ll stick to the mystical poetry of Rumi and the latest issue of Quadrant.

Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and one-time NSW Young Liberal.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005