I'm trying to get my thesis published; it argues that the world has changed and so must the ALP's structure if the party is to remain relevant to the modern electorate, and stop losing much of the tradie population to the Libs and much of the Whitlam brigade to the Greens. I also argue that the union movement, by its own strategies and actions, is headed down a path to greater independence from the ALP.
So I guess it could be argued that I aspire to be one of Bob Carr's pet shop galahs.
What's wrong with the ALP is a crowded field largely because it now celebrates when its primary vote tops one-third of the electorate; because it suffered massive defeats in NSW and Queensland and because it is engaged in a seemingly endless leadership struggle between Gillard and Rudd. Add to that a challenge from the Greens.
Carr is right that the bleatings of former politicians is hardly helpful. Tanner is disingenuous when he suggests that his book is designed to help the ALP, it is clearly just laden with bitterness, and any contribution by a former MP, who supports Rudd, is always going to be a negative for the ALP. He would know that.
Something I find frustrating about all these analyses is that they are so superficial and repetitive. Tanner's idea that the ALP doesn't have a purpose, or more ridiculously that inequality is not an issue in Australia any more, is fatuous. As are all the other analyses that prattle about vision and ideology etc.
The ALP has always been long on pragmatism and big enough to embrace a plethora of visions and ideas. The party has done best when it has stressed pragmatism and avoided big debates and ideas (which more often than not have led to disastrous splits).
The ALP's historic strength has been its capacity to connect and represent a broad range of Australian society.
It did this largely through its connections with a blue collar workforce, and their local communities, through its connection with unions and with the Catholic church.
Times have changed that world has shrunk.
For a few decades the change was not noticed bcause Whitlam, Wran, Dunstan et al added the emergent university educated middle class to the ALP's ranks. But the ALP now has to compete with the Greens for a broad swathe of this demographic.
And the leadership of the Liberal Party probably has stronger links with the Catholic Church then the ALP these days. Think Abbott and Cardinal Pell.
The ALP's membership has declined dramatically; the perverse result has been that a small group of senior union officials exercises much more influence over the party than ever before - even as union membership declines to historic lows.
The ALP doesn't need focus group tested visions, or new 'purposes', it just needs more democracy. It needs to open its ranks to more people.
To do that, it must cut its affiliation ties with the unions, or at least reduce their internal influence dramatically.
Hopefully, the surge of bitter ex pollie books will pass over us and there will be some room for some more serious discussion.