THE MAN WHO PROMISED SO MUCH BUT DELIVERED SO LITTLE
Gough Whitlam came up to me at a function in Balmain in 1976, he looked me in the eye and in his typical haughty voice said, “You can do whatever you like to me, but leave Margaret alone.” I felt like a naughty schoolboy as I searched in vain for an appropriate response.
He rose a few points in my estimation of him as I realised his unswerving devotion to his wife. Gough was a good yet politically flawed man.
Margaret I adored and she was no shrinking violet. She could often be overheard berating him and seen gently toeing him in the shins but I have never seen two people so undeniably together as Gough and Margaret.
I have often wondered if Gough would have served more than two volatile half-terms in Office had he not needed to endure a cabinet of complete idiots.
This was his Achilles heel and he seemed to know it as he furiously rushed to complete his socialist agenda before the axe fell.
Accolades flew thick and fast today, many inaccurate, some just plain wrong and some true, but there is little doubt Gough Whitlam stood astride the political landscape like an unassailable Colossus for a mere moment, a moment too short for an adoring media.
The fact that he soldiered on after his ignominious sacking to further predictable defeats speaks for his loyalty to his faithful followers. He could have escaped to Paris far sooner had he wanted.
He could have brought Australia close to civil war had he challenged Kerr’s Constitutional right to sack him. He could have dug his toes in, continued on, and called an election himself. But he didn’t, he didn’t even consider that option, instead, and without hesitation, he accepted the monarchical system he hated.
It’s far easier to be generous to Gough now he’s gone.
Sitting in the massive audience were Julia and Kevin, their little hearts skipping a beat at the outpouring of adulation for one of our worst ever Prime Ministers.
They must have thought all this will be afforded us one day too. No, Whitlam for all his faults had stature, intellect and presence.
Julia and Kevin will be lucky to make the obituary classifieds in The Age.