Winton Pawprints 

Winton (c.1995-2012) was our beloved shop cat and still has the last word every month in her regular column.

I for once was glad

 - Friday, July 19, 2013

  I for once was glad the night of June 26 that politicians are cravenly poll-led and knew to make the Labor leadership deliberations short so their constituents wouldn't miss the State of Origin kick-off and thus resentfully vote for someone else. The verdict was in before eight and I didn't have to listen to any more endlessly repetitive and inane opinion on News 24 about a Labor leadership battle that many of these opinioneers had been instrumental in creating and fuelling. I've just finished Kerry-Anne Walsh's The Stalking of Julia Gillard and my fury toward the vengeful rat now glorying in his Prime Ministership is renewed a thousand-fold.     
Walsh writes that her book started out in mid-2011 as a record of 'how the government and Independents handled Australia's first minority parliament since 1939, but it became quickly apparent that while the minority parliament was functioning remarkably well under Gillard's leadership there was a heaving political undercurrent being generated by a minority within the Labor caucus that kept threatening to derail its success. I noticed that as the months passed, the vast resources of the press gallery became more focused on Rudd's ambitions for a comeback than anything the historic minority parliament had to offer.' Walsh is a conservative journalist who 'chased daily news' for 25 years in the federal parliamentary press gallery and 'knows what a bastard of a business politics and journalism can be', but was confounded by the way in which Rudd's power play swept professional journalists into 'giving undeserved momentum to his ambition'—becoming players, even mouthpieces, not reporters. Rudd's antics 'were generally afforded benign, unquestioning prime-time media coverage' while Gillard was 'continually cast as a liar and policy charlatan, and lampooned for her hair, clothes, accent, arse, even the way she walks and talks'. Walsh then proceeds to document 'Team Rudd's' constant white-anting of the Gillard government, and the media's extraordinary complicity in keeping the 'leadership battle' front and centre. The Time's Up Julia appendix listing of assessments, statements and predictions of the demise of the Gillard Government from 2010 to 2013 is an eye-opener.
The fact that Walsh is not a Gillard spruiker, in fact she includes herself in her excoriation of the press, makes her coverage of the last 3 years of political bastardry very temperate, a cold dissection of the state of the body politic. Her discussion of polls: 'Outside of election cycles polls are only good for use as weapons against political opponents; as a propaganda tool by whatever party or party leader is in the ascendancy; as a marketing tool by the newspapers that publish them; and as a barometer for lazy journalists to judge a government's performance' is particularly incisive. And as for the terrible 'on the drip' interaction between the executive and the press: 'Gallery journalists were complicit in presenting to the public a picture of a government paralysed by leadership instability, when the forces that created this destabilisation relied on just such media coverage to drive their number gathering.' She has a few suggestions in her final chapter about how to remedy this seemingly intractable state of affairs. Highly recommended. Winton

I was exchanging emails with a long time customer of Gleebooks the other day and she said she'd vote for Genghis Kahn before she'd vote for Tony Abbott, but my problem is which of history's tyrants do I choose over Kevin Rudd. Abbott and Rudd are equals in ugly politics and the utter cynicism of one calling for civility in parliament after 3 years of total war, and Rudd calling for party solidarity after 3 years of white-anting and destabilisation. Off with both their heads, if I can't have Gillard I want Tony Windsor for PM. Meanwhile I guess I'll read some books while Rome burns. There's a new Daniel Woodrell (author of the fantastic Winter's Bone) on the fiction pages. On the crime pages, Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt makes a reappearance clutching her detection bible by the famous and mysterious French detective, Jacques Silette, and I'm tempted to try out a bit of Greek food, wine and dark deeds with detective Hermes Diaktoros in the new Anne Zouroudi. Rod Moss' One Thousand Cuts calls from page 8—the first part of his biography, Hard Light of Day, was one of my favourite books of 2010. There are a lot of books on the Australian Studies page that warrant a look, but if you haven't read The Stalking of Julia Gillard, I highly recommend it. I'm also intrigued by the Jarndyce v Jarndyce style legal battles promised in Weight of Evidence. Was She Pretty by Leanne Shapton on page 18 sounds interesting, especially as her memoir Swimming Studies was so well received. I think I may have to venture into one of Mary Corelli's bestsellers following Steve's review, and—maybe because in my re-reading of Lawrence Block's burglar series (I've just read The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian)—I'm going to have to look into Mondrian/Nicholson: In Parallel on the art page. Also on that page, Irving Harper: Works in Paper promises a good story.