Long live the king. The king is dead. This week in Australian politics – the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd was politically assassinated. In the space of 24 hours the incumbent party’s power brokers stirred the cauldron and the caucus came together to nominate the first ever female as leader of the country.
Was ever a man so powerful made so weak? Barely containing the emotion of defeat, the man, once king, flanked by his immediate family stood at the dais, giving his departure speech as he listed his achievements to the press and the people. Many they were, including the now famous apology to the indigenous people of Australia, in addition to education, tax and health reform.
Here was a man who had commanded the highest popularity of any Prime Minister in history, sent to the backbenches like a whimpering schoolboy. This was no way to treat a king, cried the leader of the opposition. The irony not lost on the public that the loudest voice of outrage came from the opposing side.
So what happened? Perception is what happened. And relationships are what didn’t.
Kevin Rudd created the perception that he was a ‘can do’ guy who worked hard and got the job done. He had passion, fervour, toughness and diligence for the policies and programs the country had ‘given him a mandate’ to implement. After all this was the man who single handedly (working with a small team) fought of the GFC in Australia with the stimulus package.
But the cry went out after he (and his small team) returned from the Summit on Global Warming with no Emissions Trading Scheme in place. “Who is this man who says he will then doesn’t?” Questions began to grow – “What does this man stand for?” The tide of perception began to turn as the king’s political opponents capitalised on every slip up, every policy failure, every opportunity that presented itself.
Scrutiny on the king then turned to his relationships. He had the highest turnover rate of staff of any political leader. He was known to be ruthless: a hard man to work for; asking his staff to work 20 hours a day, weeks on end. It was nothing to receive a call at 4.00 in the morning to have a report ready by 6.00am, or so the stories went.
Yet on the day of his political death, the man at the microphone spoke of what he’d done, as he listed his achievements. And of these none could be questioned.
But this, once great man, was not aware that it was ‘How’ he had gone about his work that had created his reversal of fortune. He had long used his social credits at the expense of – ‘doing good things for the country’. He had prioritised task and outcome over process and people. Irony evident again in the sum of his pursuits: of, for and by the people.
And so once again in history, the humble spectator is reminded that as the mighty rise so can they fall: opinion, perception and the invisible threads of ‘feelings’ taking subjective precedence over the pragmatic and practical evidence of achievement.
And so goes the tale of the Tragedy of King Kevin: the man who focused on the ‘what’ at the expense of the ‘how’.