When I studied history and politics at uni in the mid 90s, I learnt about the British election of 1945. Despite having just been Prime Minister of Britain through years of war and defeating the Nazi regime, Winston Churchill led his party to an election against Labour’s Clement Attlee, and got wiped out.
It seems that when the war started, a government of national unity was formed, and this meant that both Conservative and Labour leaders were involved in Cabinet. The result was that by 1945, after years of war (and no elections) the senior people in the Labour Party had credibility as alternate leaders for the country. So in that sense, the Conservatives had created their own defeat.
That story has come back to mind today, as I watch our Prime Minister share the limelight with Kevin Rudd. Howard wanted this conference to be his great opportunity to be a ‘statesman’, sharing media coverage with world leaders such as Putin, Bush and many others.
Instead though, the evening news is dominated by things like Kevin Rudd speaking Mandarin at a press conference with China’s Hu Jintao. The week is giving Rudd a chance to stand with such leaders along with the Prime Minister, and he’s coming across as competent and more in tune with the region than Howard.
Tonight though, a great story on the news, as Laurie Oakes claims that Alexander Downer has approached Howard and given him the word. Oakes says Howard will not be Prime Minister by the end of next week. According to the media, the biggest challenge they’ve got is convincing Peter Costello to step up. He sees it as a poisoned chalice apparently – to lead his party in the lead-up to an increasingly inevitable defeat.
It’s making the bet I put on a few months ago – against Howard winning in the seat of Bennelong – look like a good investment. 🙂
While I’m away, have a look at these articles.
First, one on how a democracy can evolve into a dictatorship. It’s a little dated, and it’s American, but it’s got some decent points.
The next is on the life lessons to be found in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
When I was a teenager, there was a Cold War on. Two superpowers sat watching each other, expecting to be attacked. Both countries spent huge amounts of money on weaponry to deter the other from moving against them. In 1961 and twice in 1983, wars almost erupted. Millions of men lived their whole lives, dedicated to the cause of maintaining their countries against their opponent.
Then, in 1991, it all ended.
The Soviet Union ceased to exist not because of an external attack, but because its own people opted out.
So all that effort, all those resources, all those people dedicated to maintaining the state simply failed. A superpower was unable to keep up the momentum to just exist.
There’s a tendency in our culture to believe that states are so all-powerful and all-controlling and all-capable that they control their own destiny. But if one the size of the Soviet Union couldn’t keep it together, can any nation-state? We’ve grown up where for the last sixty years, states have been mostly static. But the generation before that saw massive changes. Perhaps our stability in this has lead us to believe in the inevitability of the world as it is now. But as any Russian over the age of 30 knows, nothing lasts forever.
I kind of pity those who grew up behind the iron curtain. All their life, they were told that their way of life was superior to the Imperialist West. Yet after 1991, the news hit that they’d been lied to. Capitalism and imperialism was good, not bad. Communism and socialism were failed theories. As U2’s slogans during the ZooTV days said “Everything you know is wrong.”
If you’d grown up under one system, and then all of a sudden been told that everything you’d been told was wrong, would you believe it? If the west had turned to communism, do you think there’d have been Americans secretly thinking this new era was flawed, and that, deep down, capitalism and the rule of markets was really the right way after all?