Political parties are like those “3D images” where red and blue images don’t overlap, and by wearing glasses with separate red and blue lenses your eyes are tricked into seeing the third dimension, seeing the image as if it is a single object.
(Helene, small, icy moon of Saturn. Irregularly shaped, about 36 by 32 by 30 kilometers, Helene orbits at Dione’s leading Lagrange point while brotherly ice moon Polydeuces follows at Dione’s trailing Lagrange point. The sharp stereo anaglyph was constructed from two Cassini images (N00172886, N00172892) captured during a close flyby in 2011. It shows part of the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Helene mottled with craters and gully-like features. APOD http://t.co/KpDILNJe )
There is the political party as the repository of a set of policies, ideas, ideology, world view, opposed to another party with a different set. In a battle to ensure that one party’s policies become those of the country.
Then there is the political party composed of individuals, flawed, talented, stupid, smart, angry, kind, jealous, competing with all the other individuals in the same party for personal supremacy.
We saw a clear case this week in Australia. Some background. Indigenous Australians have very rarely been represented in Australian parliaments. At federal level only three, all since the 1970s, one only since 2010. I think there has only been one at a state level (in WA some years ago), although there have been several in the Northern Territory with its high Aboriginal population in recent years.
Somewhat astonishingly the Australian Labor Party has never had an Aboriginal member of Federal Parliament, while the Liberals have had two (one reluctantly) and the Democrats one.
Anyway, in a first step to rectify this the Prime Minister announced she had, outside of the normal candidate preselection process, invited a well known Aboriginal former international sportswoman to be the Labor NT Senate candidate (and certain winner), to replace the current non-Aboriginal female Senator who has held the position for 15 years.
Ok, win win win all round eh? Loud applause from all concerned? Supportive media? Labor Party welcoming new recruit? Current Senator happily standing aside? Praise for Prime Minister’s creative thinking? Community discussion about ways to get more minority groups into parliament? In your dreaming.
Immediately members of the Labor party stated bitching and backgrounding the media. How dare the PM interfere? The members must decide. Poor choice, what had this woman done anyway? What had the sitting senator done wrong? Rudd (former Prime Minister) supporters outraged. And on and on. The Party members tearing at each other and in doing so opening up wounds that the media and the Opposition were happy to enlarge, the media undertaking, in its usual charming way, a witch hunt to see what if any dirt they could find. On a young woman who had done nothing except put up her hand and say she was interested in serving her country. The very thought of bringing in new blood to the party for a wider good was anathema to many in the Party.
Look I don’t know the background to this inside the Party. There are two diametrically opposed views here and here. I don’t know what qualities Ms Peris might have (although the tears of happiness she shed, standing by the Prime Minister, were a pretty encouraging sign). I have seen enough of life to know that public image, and perceptions, are often wildly at odds with the actual character and performance of some people in the public eye. But at face value Ms Peris seems a good person who has achieved a great deal in her life so far and now has the opportunity to achieve a great deal more.
The process of getting her pre-selected to seek election is one that could be followed a lot more to get other groups into parliament that are scarcely represented (and I don’t just mean ethnic groups, but scientists, artists, teachers, nurses, young people, old people, and so on). It should be welcomed by political parties concerned with their principles and with the well-being of the country.
In his famous call to the American people in that long ago Inauguration, Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. It is a call that could be directed at politicians by substituting the word “Party” for “Country”.
Most of the time, the public, issued with those special glasses, sees political parties as they wish to be seen – whole idealistic public-spirited groups concerned only for the well-being of the country they seek to serve. The Nova Peris unpleasantness is one of those occasions where one lens has been removed, and we clearly see the ugliness and self-seeking nature of most politicians (though definitely not all) within their parties.
Time many of them took off their glasses and took a long hard look at themselves in the mirror.