The epic bitterness of the spurned shadow #springst
Imagine a room with the following inhabitants: erstwhile child stars, now broke; elderly victims of a Ponzi scheme; the recently divorced; and the Winkelvoss twins. Imagine that all the bile contained therein could be captured and then injected into a single human body. By doing this, you have gone some way to grasping the scale of bitterness evident within a certain subspecies of politician: the spurned shadow.
The spurned shadow can be identified by this one tragic biographical detail: having served on the front-bench in opposition (as a Shadow Minister), he or she was rejected for the Ministry once his Party made it into government. It is hard to imagine a personal and professional rejection as humiliating, and the spurned shadow has no choice but to roam the earth for the remainder of its days lashing out, seeking targets for blame, pursuing pointless vendettas and boring the shit out of people.
Imagine further, if you will, that such a creature goes home at night to a spouse who is, in a strange twist of fate, a member of a closely related, and similarly hostile, breed: the once-Minister, now-backbencher.
Add a case of premature baldness, and you might now have a sense of the amount of vitriol swishing around the tank of Kelvin Thomson, the federal member for Wills.
Thomson is featured in this morning’s Age newspaper doing his version of what sacked staffer George Droutsas has already done: dazzling the media with his Labor credentials and “insider” status as a ruse to vent his spleen:
In defiance of new state Labor leader Daniel Andrews’s call for party members to keep criticisms of the election campaign in-house, Mr Thomson said the defeat required ”serious analysis”.
”It is not enough to write this off to an ‘it’s time’ factor, as if the voters change governments once a decade without regard to circumstances,” he said. ”To think like this will become a self-fulfilling analysis and condemn us to the next decade in opposition.
”Nor is it enough to utter platitudes such as ‘we made mistakes’, ‘we aren’t perfect’, and ‘we need to do better’, without any tangible sign of a change in direction or approach.
”Such platitudes mask a defiance, which voters will sense and question our sincerity.”
This is well-disguised nonsense. His criticisms seem valid, almost unimpeachable really, until you realise that he is playing the oldest trick in Ye Olde Book of Bullshite: comprehensively misrepresenting his opponent’s argument in order to win support in slaying it.
When people, including me, argue that the so-called “It’s Time” factor was decisive in Labor’s defeat, this is not the same as denying that there were also significant policy and political problems. It is not arguing that time alone worked against the government, but that the mistakes and political damage accrued over that time became an electoral albatross too heavy to bear. Thomson’s characterisation of the “It’s Time”argument is completely specious, and so his rebuttal of it should be appropriately devalued.
But what is especially galling about Thomson’s argument is this: his alternative explanation for Labor’s defeat is nothing but an iteration of his own pet policy obsession. Above all else, Thomson is stridently opposed to high levels of immigration — which is a fair enough point of view I suppose. But it is a classic case of confirmation bias at work — if you wake up every morning panicking about a population crisis, as Kelvin Thomson does, it is not surprising or at all useful that you view all other political events through that narrow prism.
Thomson first misrepresents the arguments of those he disagrees with, an oldie but a goodie. Then he tries to explain political phenomena through the microscopic lens of his own abiding policy interests at the expense of much more obvious explanations; this, too, is as old as the history of bad arguments. And all of this needs to be understood in the context of Thomson’s spurned shadow status with all of its psychopathological implications.