With the opinion polls nudging still towards a Labor victory, the plotters of the Gillard coup might be feeling smugly self-satisfied at their handiwork.
The last traces of Kevin Rudd have been being kicked over - the bizarre implication now being that a man whose workload and dedication was legendary, failed to do his bit on the crucial National Security Committee. Needless to say, Julia Gillard has loyally defended him.
We have watched her play out a nil-all draw against Tony Abbott in the dullest encounter of unpaid overtime in this already tediously drawn-out match-up. They recited their lines to perfection, Julia tried very hard to smile, Abbott jutted his Duce jaw. Both talked a lot about families. Oh, and boats, so much so it could all have been about a yachting regatta.
Both were so resolutely “On Message” they sounded like muppets on prozac.
The US sends smarter drones to Afghanistan.
But Julia's appeal to female voters, combined with Tony’s lack of any recognisable policy, beyond towing the leaky refugee boats back out to the high seas to sink or be sunk, and WorkChoices on the never-never, mean that Labor can probably look forward to a pleasantly boozy election night on August 21.
But even after the votes have been counted, and a Gillard Government elected, the question will still be, which party has been elected?
In the days before the coup, Rudd was accused of incompetently “trashing the Labor brand”. Well, the plotters have certainly fixed that. Now it is being trashed by experts.
The “hardline” policy on refugees, the capitulation to wealthy mining interests on the resources tax, and the lack of any policy on global warming, beyond randomly convening 150 non-experts, all indicate that Gillard Labor is not Labor as we have known it.
Instead it is 99% content-free, saccharin-coated, artificially coloured and flavoured: it is Labor Lite.
Like many Australians, I grew up in a traditional Labor household.
Nightly at the table my father went on about Bob “Ming” Menzies, while my grandfather would argue back to the TV news with his refrain of “But what about the poor old working man!” My mother was more cagey about her vote, though I think my father secretly feared she voted DLP, possibly at the behest of her confessor.
My father was a self-declared “Labor Man”, believing the Party stood for fairness, for the good of the working class and the nation as a whole. By contrast, he characterised the Liberals as motivated by selfish individual gain, and a lack of care for others. He was a true believer: the party’s egalitarian ideal was his personal “light on the hill”.
He died nearly ten years ago, and often since I have pondered what he might make of Labor now.
What for instance would he have made of us all being told by the party leadership that the big mining companies only got a 1.5 billion dollar “discount” off their super profits tax, when we learned soon after it was a 7.5 billion dollar discount? That would appear to go from a 10 percent discount, to a 60 percent discount. But misquoting fact rates barely a mention these days. To Labor Lite, history - as Henry Ford and postmodernists agree - is bunk.
This nonetheless evokes images of armies of government clerks daily rewriting history, a la Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, changing facts to match the required political imperative of the day, and flicking the previous and now nonconforming facts down the “memory hole” to the furnaces burning beneath the Ministry of Truth, somewhere off State Circuit.
With all its policy changes - to accommodate the rich over mining, the racists over boat arrivals, the do-nothings and sceptics on climate change, not to mention a midnight knock for a prime minister who led it back from more than a decade in opposition - this wild, all too desperate public gamble to cling to power we are witnessing now, could just work.
Given the policy revisionism on the run of Labor, Liberals might rue taking to an election a man never popular with polled voters, and wonder where they might have been now with Malcolm Turnbull, who, whatever else one might think of him, at least does not cause women to avert their eyes.
But Turnbull was brought down by the global warming policy battle - ironically, the same thing that contributed to Rudd’s demise - and we can only imagine how different things might have been if the Greens had backed the CPRS legislation last year.
On August 21, Labor may retain power, but without glory. Because in the past few weeks it has lost any claim to fairness and idealism, to the common good and the moral high ground. In the process it will have lost something far more valuable than power, which is its heart. And without that, what is Labor? What separates it from Liberal, beyond party colours, if not heart?
“Labor Men” like my father would not recognise the Party now, the Lite on the hill.