For years Senator John Faulkner has, with the gravitas granted him by a very supportive media, talked big on renewing the ALP’s grass roots.
All to find his own branch folds due to lack of interest. And this in an area with one of the highest leftwing votes, and longest histories of leftwing voting, in the country.
[Disclosure: Yes, I was a Liberal candidate for a seat covering Glebe].
While this leads to a delicious inner-west-political schadenfreude, it says a great deal more for the complete failure of all the ALP navel-gazing of the past 2-3 years. As I commented in April.
And as was confirmed by the failure to preselect Cassandra Wilkinson as the ALP candidate for Mayor of Sydney in the recent primary. She offered a concrete, no-bullshit agenda that speaks to the classic no-bullshit blue collar constituency that ALP insiders talk about but whose company they abhor.
ALP insiders talk middle Australia but live mid-Atlantic. Or the inner city equivalent of it.
NSW General Secretary Sam Dastyari spruiks primaries, but as Rodney Cavalier points out, there are hardly any contested preselections in NSW. By contrast, the Liberals are a festival of competitive preselections, which is a mark of a real grassroots organisation (though we do need to keep an eye on it, there being some worrying signs). Hey, even unwinnable Balmain was a contested preselection for the March 2011 election.
What we see in the ALP is an institutional Titanic, too big a bureaucracy, with too much cash to ever feel the pressure to change course. And by cash I mean union dues, union-controlled superannuation, University grants, government jobs and government largesse distributed to direct and indirect supporters. And those cushy corporate jobs filled with Balmain and Bondi moralisers who like to consider themselves as siding with the little guy.
Neither failing to win elections nor increasing ridicule from all literate citizens has any effect on this steel-hulled, self-righteous self-interest machine.
The basis for their world view, and their identity as fighting for the little guy is long gone. They’re left with little more than their own cognitive dissonance and brazen spinmeistery to keep them company. As the decline of the Glebe branch shows.
If I were one of the good guys in the ALP, I’d be looking to start a new party now. Leave the urban aristocrats behind.