If not Albo, then who will lead Labor?

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“Do not think for a moment that Shorten has surrendered his ambitions for The Lodge. His recent half-hearted mea culpa for the loss of the election was nothing but a PR stunt,” writes “The Gadfly” columnist ROBERT MACKLIN.

THE Labor Party is in deep trouble. Leader Anthony Albanese is not cutting through; and all the indications are that this is not going to change. 

Robert Macklin.

Those six years in the wilderness of Bill Shorten’s leadership were not just wasted, they stripped away the ebullient heart of the man. Today he’s a shadow of his former self.

And do not think for a moment that Shorten has surrendered his ambitions for The Lodge. His recent half-hearted mea culpa for the loss of the election was nothing but a PR stunt, getting in ahead of the official report by Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson. So when they lay at least some of the blame on him, it’s an old story. 

Besides which, if you read his remarks carefully you’ll see that he has positioned himself simply as the “captain” of the ship that was going to sink under the weight of its collective promises anyway. And he’s promised to stay the course for the next 20 years! 

The code behind that is Albanese’s private promise to a possible successor in his Grayndler Seat to depart the scene in the election after the next, for unexplained “family reasons”.

Add to that, the clever manoeuvring of PM Scott Morrison to have the Opposition Leader pictured with him in happy colloquy at every possible opportunity and Albo simply fades into the political background.

Alas, while nothing in politics is forever, there’s probably no road back for the old Leftie. 

Former Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

The really sad part is that as Morrison ignores the gasping economy and clasps the expected Budget surplus to his ample bosom; gets into bed with Loony Tunes in the White House; propagates his Pentecostal view of religious freedom; and turns his back on climate change, there was never such a need for a strong Opposition Leader to rally the forces of reason.

But if not Albo then who?

Deputy Leader, Richard Marles is about as charismatic as a fur ball; the shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers is an antidote for insomnia; and Tanya Plibersek has ruled herself out since “the time is not right”. Joel Fitzgibbon has stepped forward as a voice of sanity from the right, but those new, black-rimmed glasses on TV make him look like something between a myopic academic and a circus clown.

The Labor Party, for all its faults, is inclined to give its leader a “fair go”, at least until he or she becomes a hopeless case (or stands in the way of Shorten’s overweening ambition). So we can be fairly sure that Caucus will persist with Albo until at least the end of the year.

But then as they test the waters in their electorates over the big Christmas break they might well have decided to tap him on the shoulder. And you can be absolutely sure that Shorten will be in there stirring the pot.

That’s when Madame Plibersek must take another look in that mirror on the wall. It can and must be telling her: “Yes, Tanya, you are the fairest of them all. And your time has come. (Oh, and a spectacle-free Joel Fitzgibbon would be a pretty good deputy).”



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Robert Macklin
Journalist and author. Contact robert@robertmacklin.com

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