HAVE we seen a stranger political story in this country in recent years than the sight of former Labor leader Mark Latham joining Pauline Hanson’s One Nation?
The man once hailed as the potential saviour of the Left in this country has now aligned himself with the party credited with dragging the entire political discourse in Australian politics irretrievably to the right.
And the man who once denounced Kevin Rudd’s prime ministership as “an exercise in populism” has himself joined the party that has made political populism an artform.
When Mr Latham was elected Labor leader in 2003 he was marketed as a class warrior who had dragged himself up from a tough childhood in Sydney’s west to join the nation’s political elite.
As the Member for Werriwa he represented thousands of new migrants to this country who – rightly or wrongly – felt they were under heavy attack from Ms Hanson and her One Nation colleagues.
At one stage it even appeared quite possible that Mr Latham could become prime minister but when his political career began unravelling, it did so quite spectacularly.
He left parliament in 2005 citing illness and family concerns before reinventing himself as a talking headline for hire.
More recently he has seemingly come to hate the Left that he once was proud to represent and lead, but still it is hard to countenance that he could not only join One Nation but also to lead the party on an Upper House ticket for the next NSW election.
What this story does illustrate, however, is the growing primacy of personality over policy in Australian political circles.
Every election now we see “high profile” candidates running across a wide number of seats and for parties of all political persuasions.
Dr Kerryn Phelps’ win the recent Wentworth by-election was just the latest example and her predecessor, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, was another.
And whether you love them or loathe them, there is no denying that Ms Hanson and Mr Latham have been two of the biggest personalities in Australian politics for the past 20 years.
It’s hard to imagine this being a long and fruitful political alliance – both have a history of acrimonious fights with their colleagues – but their combined powers could well be enough to see Mr Latham back in parliament.
Strange days indeed.