Latham: depressed, paranoid and a suicide bomber?

Why go out with a whimper when you can go out with a bang? That's no doubt the approach Mark Latham has taken, and it's one of the bigger bangs ever to hit Australian politics.

My suspicion is that Mark Latham is mentally unwell. When Jeff Kennett brought up this suggestion a few months back he was shouted down, but perhaps Il Duce was on to something. Having seen his appearance on Enough Rope on Monday Thursday at 8:30 10:30, and read his interview with Michael Harvey and Paul Kelly in The Australian on Friday, I get the distinct impression that he is suffering from some form of depression, possibly coupled with paranoia.

For me perhaps the most significant reason to think this is the fact that Latham has not restricted his savage criticism to a few select political opponents, but has lashed out at anyone and everyone whom he encountered in his eleven years in politics. Take Gough Whitlam, Latham's political mentor, first political employer and inspiration in the naming of his first son. Latham has savaged Whitlam, attacking him for his percieved disloyalty in Whitlam privately calling for Latham to resign as leader in January of this year. A mature and balanced person would surely recognise the ultimate wisdom of Gough's words (Latham did resign, after all, within just a couple of days) and maintain the relationship. Not so, Latham.

Latham is clearly in a destructive mood. It would not be unfair to think of his as Australia's first suicide bomber - as well as destroying his own life, he seems determined to destroy the (political) lives of as many other people as possible. He doesn't seem to care how much damage he does or which set of people he harms - it is his own party that will suffer in the process and his staunch political opponents who will win.

Sadly, Mark Latham is reinforcing every negative perception about him that existed during his time as a parliamentarian. He is demonstrating himself to be self-indulgent, narcissistic, selfish, undisciplined and untrustworthy with the truth. Much as he sought to keep these characteristics in check previously, now he has few people to impress and so he can let it all hang out. This is the real Latham.

In a strange way, the mad excess of Latham is to the advantage of the ALP. Had he been more measured and subtle in his criticism, then he might have been taken seriously and the negative effect on Beazley and the current crop would be significant. As it is, Latham is a sad circus act taken seriously by no-body, and so his accusations can be readily dismissed. Beazley, Whitlam and Keating all enjoy a resiliant character and a persona deeply etched in the public mind. The ravings of Mad Mark are going to do little to change them.

As to the question of how someone as unreliable and erratic as Latham managed to rise to the most senior position within the Australian Labor Party, it says much about the appeal of a false Messiah. I quite liked Beazley's spin on this one - it's a case of 'Sliding Doors': who's to say that had Latham become PM he wouldn't have grown into the role and left his erratic nature behind. Besides, were Latham to go troppo whilst in office, he would be merely a caucus vote away from being replaced. Good spin, and it may satisfy the public, but internally the ALP need to address the substance of this question: just how were so many of them duped?

A possible career move for Latham?
A possible career move for Latham?


Anonymous said…
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Polly said…
Come off it, Ari, you're describing Latham as a suicide bomber? Really? Seriously, though, how has he destroyed his life? I wouldn't describe someone who is able to retire in his forties and be a stay at home parent as having destroyed his life.

As for his current actions, disgusting as they are, he's certainly not the first person to metaphorically take his bat and ball and go home when something doesn't go their way, although most politicians who do this seem to quit their party and stay in parliament till the electorate boots them out.
Lisa said…
A suicide in the metaphoric sense. What you say rings true Ari. He was once considered a highly-talented and proactive guy by many of us, but shows by these diaries he seems to be limited to just being reactive or innactive now.

As for 'destroying his life', even if retiring for a life of leisure in one's forties would be a big achievement for someone else, to me Latham has lost touch with and defamed all those things that were important to him in life (except, as he points out, his family). This is him basically destroying his life. As we saw in the Denton interview he clings desperately to his role as a father to his boys and can't answer Denton on the question of what he'll center his life around when they are independent.
Polly said…
He could always have a career as a radio shock-jock, Lisa, he'd totaly fit in.
That was pretty quick reading, Lisa, if you'd finished the diaries already by 1.56am and could comment on what he shows in them.

Or are you just reacting to the media coverage and the Denton interview?

I've nearly finished reading, and the contents are pretty damn different to the spin put on it by the media.
Anonymous said…
Leaving aside the random (?) recomendation to check out a blog dedicated to obesity surgery, and the rantings of the continually argumentative and occasionally amusing Rebekka....

Suicide Bomber? No. So he's gone a bit rabid, a bit feral, and he's biting the hand that once fed him. But i've not seen him turning on himself. He's not aiming the vitriol inwardly.

$66k p.a. (plus book royalties while the gimmick lasts) to be a stay at home dad? Yes please.

Latham as a shock Jock? Ouch....

I was going to argue with your description of me as continually argumentative, then I realised that would just be proving your point.

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