Tales from the Political Trenches (2012) by Maxine McKew is a new book in the rapidly growing genre of ALP types fighting over the history of the Rudd and Gillard years. Like Lindsay Tanner’s Sideshow and Paul Howes interesting Confessions of a Faceless Man the remarkable tale of how the ALP went from looking toward a comfortable reelection and a probable third term into the disastrous 2010 campaign and a highly probable 2013 election loss.
McKew writes well. She shows the sort of bias you would expect from a politician, which is fine, but it is a little disturbing to see how partisan the views of someone are who was paid by all taxpayers to present at least allegedly independent and unbiased news.
McKew goes briefly over her childhood and her early career before going into her successful campaign against former Prime Minister John Howard in Bennelong. She then goes over her career as a politician where she was in charge of early childhood education and goes into how she wanted things changed. McKew also criticizes the ALP’s strong penchant for forcing all their politicians to be on one message at all times to be really awful. McKew is very fond of Rudd and does mention that Rudd drove this approach but little is made of it.
McKew is very fond of policy ideas but makes little mention of the importance of execution and the difficulty of evaluating policy changes and of observing their unintended detrimental effects.
The coverage in the book of the removal of Rudd by Gillard and her henchmen is damning. It’s clear that Gillard ran a sustained campaign against Rudd for months and that her claim that she found herself thrust into the position of a challenge are shown to be farcical. It’s also pointed out that challenging a fairly popular first term Prime MInister was politically very unwise.
McKew also discusses how the ALP’s factions and union power within the ALP have made the party disfunctional. She also mentions how corruption within the ALP and the Union movement is also deeply damaging. Between the NSW ALP Obied Scandal, the AWU Affair and the Thompson case it’s pretty clear that ALP corruption is not a case of a single isolated incident.
Between Confessions of a Faceless Man and this book ALP insiders make a strong case that not since Kim Beazley have the ALP had a leader who was really up to the job. McKew has written a book that outlines the deep problems within the modern ALP. After the next election and the ALP’s very probable loss the ALP will, presumably, start in earnest a brawl about who is to blame. McKew’s book is an interesting prologue.