Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Beazley loses control of his vowels

Speaking as a feminist and lifelong Labor voter ...

Oh bloody hell, why bother going on? Everyone knows there's only one way this sentence could possibly end. Badly.

One night a few years ago I was sitting in a restaurant with a mate of similar ideological persuasions who's also a professor of political science (and a woman, just in case there's anyone left alive who still automatically thinks 'man' on hearing a phrase like that), just before it looked as though the then federal Labor leader Simon Crean was about to be rolled in favour of Mark Latham -- which did in fact happen shortly afterwards, with the tragic yet ludicrous consequences we know.

My friend and I could not believe that even federal Labor at its most desperate would do anything as dumb as appoint Latham leader. Nor could we believe that federal Labor's values were still so dick-wavingly old-fashioned that they would think this was a good idea. Why in God's name could Labor not read the lipstick writing on the wall? 51% of voters have girly bits. I'm not flaming, I'm just sayin'.

My mate and I looked each other in the eye. 'If they elect Latham as leader,' we both said, more or less in unison, 'then I'm voting Liberal.'

We both then immediately broke out in an ugly rash, and ate something sweet till the feeling had passed. But it was clear to both of us that Latham would crash and burn, if only because no woman in the country would be able to bring herself to vote for him if it came to the crunch, which in the end it never quite did and just as well too. Indeed, the only thing that really seriously worries me now about Julia Gillard, apart from the motives of whichever so-called friend sent her to the hairdresser she's been going to lately, is her support for Latham.

For despite the huge self-preening fuss that he's been making about ACTUALLY LOOKING AFTER HIS OWN CHILDREN, he's anathema to most thinking women. Back when he was less well-known, he wrote (for Christopher Pearson; now there's an unholy alliance) some truly vicious pieces about feminism, pieces that make it clear he does not, at the most basic level, get it -- which for a man of his age with a tertiary education just does not cut it, even in private life.

His values are male-supremacist. He boasts about being a 'good hater'. He is proud of having broken the cab driver's arm. His election-eve handshake with Howard, despite the mitigating back-story, would have turned thousands and thousands of women off him -- even those who would dearly love to see Howard wrestled to the deck, just in a slightly more metaphorical way. But anybody dumb enough to allow that moment to be filmed ought to have been dumped that night.

Having made two spectacular leadership mistakes one after the other, anointing first Crean and then Latham, Labor took the 'running scared' option and recycled the affable Bomber. WHERE IS GILLARD? WHERE IS LAWRENCE? WHERE IS MCMULLAN? WHERE IS TANNER? No, scrap those first two. Labor in Australia, at both state and federal level, has a long-standing gender policy: give the women the poisoned chalices. Face the Future with a Woman on a Stick. Honour roll: Ryan. Kelly. Kirner. Kernot. Lawrence. I could go on.

Having spent some years now wondering why Beazley so often looks so desperately insincere despite his (probably deserved) reputation of being a fairly sincere sort of a bloke generally, I finally twigged today in the car, listening to RN.

It's his vowels.

When Beazley's just, like, chatting, he pronounces both the definite and the indefinite article the same way as the rest of us. He says 'thuh' for 'the' and 'uh' for 'a': that is, he uses thuh indefinite short-vowel sound that uh New Zealander would use in the word 'six'.

But when the Bomber goes into public-pronouncement-speak, his voice shifts into a register of portentous oratorical orotundity. And instead of saying 'uh' and 'thuh', he starts saying 'ay' and 'thee', as in 'Thee Prime Minster thinks that ay change in thee immigration policy would be ay good idea.'

Whenever the Bomber starts elongating his vowels, he immediately begins to sound insincere, even when (as is frequently the case) he really believes what he's saying. It's as sure and as instant a sign of heightened rhetorical self-consciousness as that incredibly annoying fashion started by Paul Keating for repeating particular phrases, repeating particular phrases, because he like the way they sounded. The way they sounded, Mr Speaker.

And it's an absolute dead giveaway. As with Keating, so with Beazley: he sounds as though he doesn't mean it. Even when he does.

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