Some in the Labour caucus are talking already about the "Ruddliffe" era just starting. They may be right. We'll see within a year whether David Cunliffe has the understanding Rudd lacked, that people will only be lead and inspired, long term, by a leader who shows frequently that he would sacrifice himself for their cause if necessary, and for them collectively, instead of the other way round. But even if he has it, the nature of his party may mean it is not rewarded with loyalty. Selflessness may be treated as the weakness of a political mug.
Young Labour may have made traditional virtue so risible that it would now take a prodigy to resurrect it among them. All politics attracts misfits. But the left has been for too long a more comfortable berth for envious, unhappy people who project their own blackness onto others and despise personal responsibility. The nobility that could emerge from the solidarity of hard working under-valued manual and trade workers is now just a memory, invoked by people with no legitimate claim. Shane Jones has been warning of this.
Labour here should be looking closely at how hard it has been for Australian Labor to overcome their internal culture. It is not possible to build an inspring party out of people without bottom lines in behaviour, even to their opponents. They've all been reared on ends justifying means, so it is not surprising that it is now applied to competition within the team.
Australian Labor's years of self blinding loathing for new Australian PM Tony Abbott were mentioned in the wall-to-wall post election analysis, but the main theme was awe at Abbott's discipline, and mockery of Labor strategists for expecting that discipline to falter while they indulged in civil war without the excuse of doctrinal division.
There was a chorus of awe that Abbott could climb away from being bracketed in unpopularity with two detested Labor leaders despite having been a principal author of that unpopularity, given the political wisdom that negativity hurts the author as much as, or more than the target.
I expect to see now in New Zealand similar sanctimony from the left media establishment as Cunliffe is urged to re-earn the trust of their flock. No one I saw from the Australian left had the self awareness or humility to wonder whether the flock could summon the qualities of character to make them worth leading. None asked whether a party composed of young professional identity politicians with no genuine connection with real workers or real business leaders could draw on the experiences of self-sacrifice that generats men and women with the selflessness needed to lead.
The Spectator has identified the nastiness of the Australian left's supporters as their achilles heel.
To see lack of self knowledge try David Marr's short biography "Political Animal – the making of Tony Abott" . At A$20 from the airport bookshop it makes clear much was previously inexplicable. Abbott simply does not share most of the trivial modern pieties of the cultural elite. To Marr this is sinister though Abbott's passions and temptations would have seemed natural to the leading elements of the Christian Anglo world during its heroic age of expansion, late 19th century.
Marr may have tried to be objective according to his lights. But the book reflects a thin intellect and tight lipped anxiety outside his class. He describes but cannot empathise with what he sees as an enigma. I see in what Marr describes the simplicity of a genuine man in a world of intellectual cowards. Marr can't, for example, describe Abbott's reflection of the popular anxiety about unauthorised boat people immigration, without fashionable revulsion at the peoples' fears. Marr blames those fears on the low cunning of Howard and Abbott even though it came to be shared in spades by both Rudd and Gillard.
I think his book nevertheless captures the essence of the reasons for Abbott's success even if Marr paints them in dark colours. Intelligence, wide curiousity, courage, seriousness of purpose, ambition and persistence, the capacity to inspire, to build loyal teams, good relations with bureaucrats when a Minister are all acknowledged, and must play a part.
But my impression from all the coverage, exultant from his supporters and ruefully impressed from those who will dedicate themselves to destroying him after the shock wears off, is that Abbott now provides something he himself worshipped in his heroes, as described. The Anglo democracies may be craving it, having partially destroyed their capacity to cultivate it, and to respect it where it still emerges.
It is a quality partly innate. But our forebears believed it needed nurturing. They considered that it could flower as a virtue only with self conscious long preparation and practice.
Abbott is cited in the book referring to it as he saw it in John Hewson. Abbott is unabashed about identifying and cultivating qualities he describes as manliness. .