It's hard on this side of the Tasman to quite understand what happened to Kevin Rudd.
After he defeated John Howard for the prime minister's job the world swooned. Rudd was part of a new wave of intelligent, moderate social democratic leaders led by Barack Obama. John Key was also part of this new order.
Rudd's fall from grace in itself has not been as surprising as the velocity of the fall was. Rudd went from hero to zero (in ALP terms) in a matter of weeks. His political management failed in spectacular fashion. And here's where McCarten shocks us:
But governing successfully, and winning campaigns, require two different skill sets.
Obama is struggling with that predicament. Fortunately for this Government, Key has made the transition seamlessly.
Rudd, however, has been a train wreck, stuffing up one policy after another.
Rudd's arrogance and flip-flopping put him offside with the electorate.
Goodness. Has Matt McCarten had a Road to Damascus experience? Is he having a mid-life crisis? Are the planets in alignment? Or has Matt McCarten just stopped reading all the vitriol that The Standard and other organs of the left churn out, and seen what so many New Zealanders see, judging by Key and National's continued high poll ratings?
Key's star will fade one day, just as Rudd's did, and it will be interesting to see how that pans out in the National caucus. National has a "proud" history of bloodless coups.
McCarten then goes on to praise the ALP for its swift and decisive action this week, whilst lamenting the absence of those qualities here:
You have to hand it to the Aussie Labor Party: if its leaders don't perform, they are quickly and efficiently dispatched.
The party's had a string of leaders in recent years and if new leader Julia Gillard can't save it from electoral defeat in a few months it will shaft her, too.The party's New Zealand parliamentary counterpart doesn't have the same ruthless survival instincts to oust its leaders when it can't win.
Our Labour MPs, in their hearts, knew Helen Clark couldn't win the last election and know Phil Goff can't win the next one.
But, as they did with Clark, they'll go into denial and pretend that as long as they plod along they'll still have a chance.
That's an astute observation by McCarten, morese as to where Labour is at now rather than in the Clark years. Helen Clark made Labour her personal fortress through a combination of candidate selection and ruling with an iron fist.
Phil Goff has neither of those advantages. He leads a caucus literally hand-picked by his predecessor and thus loyal to her, and he does not have the aura of power enjoyed by Helen Clark. He had a chance to bare his teeth with the Carter scandal, but he has allowed Carter to dictate terms, and the perception now is that Goff is a weak leader. That may not be the reality, but in politics, perception is everything. And the more we think about it, the more we believe that David Cunliffe's patsy question to Bill English this week was Cunliffe's sign that he believes that he is the "chosen one" to replace Goff.
Finally, McCarten also has some interesting things to say about Len Brown, but that's another story for another day. We will be watching McCarten's future utterances with interest to see if the malaise passes, or whether he has actually fallen out of love with the left!