When Narcissism Collides With Entitlement
Posted by Possum Comitatus on February 19, 2008
Occasionally, when the timing is right and the wind just perfect, keen river goers get to witness vast hordes of jellyfish floating aimlessly on the tides around the river mouth. It’s quite the show, eliciting many an “oooh” and an “ahhhh” from spectators that don’t appreciate what’s to follow. It’s not to dissimilar for keen political watchers, when the timing is just right and the winds of leadership speculation start picking up, the vast hordes of spineless jellyfish in parliament start floating aimlessly on the tides of opinion polling and the eddies of political myth. They too provide quite a scene, yet here it’s the scene makers themselves that don’t seem to appreciate that which inevitably follows.
Death, decay and a not insubstantial stench that lasts for longer than most would wish.
There were two definitive points to come out of last nights Four Corners program on Howard’s End; firstly, that Peter Costello’s sense of entitlement was only surpassed in magnitude by John Howard’s political narcissism and secondly, the front bench of the Liberal party were inflicted with an impotence so debilitating that they were not only played for fools by Howard for years, but were told to bend over and think of England while they were getting shafted.
Costello’s great leadership barrier was always the slight problem of his ambitions transcending his popularity. He never had the numbers, he never had the Newpolls and he singularly lacked the capability to change either. But he had the promise of being next in line, a worthless promise that never eventuated, but a promise that fuelled a raging sense of entitlement and one which now seems to drive a rather large amount of contempt for his parliamentary peers, particularly Howards Class of ’96, who didn’t share Costello’s view on his own political brilliance .
But while Costello raged impotently over his right to the leadership, Howard did what Howard has always done – whatever it took to achieve the aims of John Winston Howard. From the dysfunction he caused to the Liberal Party in the 1980s with his perpetual destabilising of the Peacock leadership, through to his “mean and tricky” memo through to his blatant, repeated breaking of his original leadership agreement with Costello, Howard has always enjoyed an inordinate fascination with his own political position and survival. “Sacrifice” and “John Howard” are not words that one will regularly find near each other in the sentences of future historians.
Fittingly, Howard’s End was little different to Howard’s Middle or Howard’s Beginning – in the ultimate act of political narcissism, with his party facing electoral oblivion largely from the consequences of his own making, his final act was to place the Liberal front bench in an untenable position the very first and only time that he found himself on the wrong side of his long term leadership mantra of “staying as long as the party wanted him“.
It was untenable for the party front bench to blast him out and take responsibility for the inevitable loss, but it was untenable for them to keep him as leader when he believed he would lose the election and his own seat, and he no longer had the support of the party. Their weakness delivered Howard the outcome he wanted. It was this final act that rubbed the faces of his Cabinet colleagues in their own political impotence, and one which seems to have made a fair number of them realise that they’d been played for fools for years.