the bobbsey twins .....
from john passant ….
Imagine any other election where one group’s vote is worth 350 times that of other constituents. To call that democratic would engender howls of laughter. And yet that is what happened today when the 86 Federal Labor Party parliamentarians voted 55 to 31 in favour of Bill Shorten as Labor leader.
The rank and file voted 18,230 to 12,196 in favour of Anthony Albanese but since both the Caucus vote and rank and file vote had equal weight (50/50) in determining the result Bill Shorten is leader. In pure numbers his vote was 12, 251 compared to Albanese’s 18,261 but the Parliamentary gerrymander sees the less popular party man elected.
Only 74% of eligible party members voted. This means the total membership of the ALP on 7 September was about 41,200, a pathetic figure for a mass party which in the past, with a much lower population, may have had up to 100,000 members.
The ALP claims 4000 joined in anticipation of the ballot. This is highly unlikely since it wasn’t absolutely clear there would be a ballot until the election result about 7 pm on Saturday 7 September and when Albanese announced he would run against Shorten a few days later on Friday 13 September. Further the original rule was only those who had been members for longer than 2 years could vote. This was later changed to those who were members as at 7 September.
The Labor Party also claims that the rank and file vote invigorated the membership. I am sure many members were thrilled that after a lifetime of being ignored they could tick a box for one of the two Bobbsey twins of Labor Party neoliberalism. But obviously not all of the members. Why did 26%, about 11,000 people, not vote?
Maybe they saw through the charade and knew it would not make any difference who led the ALP. Albanese was the favourite of the membership. This is the same Albanese who was at the heart of the Rudd and Gillard governments and their rotten policies on Aborigines, refugees, same-sex marriage, single mothers, to name just a few. And of course the big economic picture was that inequality grew under Labor as part of its deliberate program to shift more and more of workers’ wealth to capital, the key policy Albanese and the rest of the rotten motley parliamentary crew were undertaking.
I suspect the members, like most of Australian society, are well to the left of the ALP caucus on most if not all issues. They voted for Albanese in hope. After all Albanese in government showed he was as reactionary as the rest of them when it came to refugees, the Northern Territory intervention, equal love, war, wealth shifting. Albo can pretend he fights Tories, but in reality he is one.
What the big rank and file vote for Albanese shows is that the idea of reform, the desire for progressive reforms that benefit ordinary working people and the less well off, is not dead, even though the reality, the economic base from which those reforms can be paid, may well be.
The pity about Albanese not being elected is not that he would have instigated progressive polices but that he would not have and thus the idea of the white knight saving Labor and the rest of us can live on for another day rather than die under Albanese’s neoliberal leadership.
During the month of campaigning not once did we see a real policy debate. There was no talk of taxing the rich, of nationalising the miners and the banks, of cutting government largess to private schools, of spending more on public education, public health and public transport. If Albanese offered hope, it was the hope of the unmentioned.
This was a stage managed political fashion parade and members got to vote on which model of neoliberalism they preferred. The models often held hands as they strutted the catwalk mouthing the same platitudes. Not policies, note, but platitudes.
What the process also did was cement the power of caucus and the right wing dominance of it. They may have feared giving voting power to the members. However what this vote has done is show that the members aren’t a threat if the right control the Caucus. So it reinforces the power of the right wing in the party and Caucus and shows how vital it will be for it to continue to control the pre-selection and union leadership processes.
The left in Caucus has fallen in behind the dear leader and many in the membership appear to be doing the same. ‘We got a say, Shorten has won, so we need to throw our efforts behind him.’ In other words the vote has created the illusion of inclusiveness and dragged the left behind the right (again), not kicking and screaming but surrendering meekly in the name of gerrymandered democracy and defeating the ‘real enemy’.
Capitalism is the real enemy and the likes of Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese are as wedded to it as Abbott and Truss.