A TV interview the late Simon Crean gave with comic Rowe McManus reveals why he was the only Labor leader in more than 100 years who never ran an election marketing campaign.
Crane, a power minister in the Hawke, Keating, Rudd and Gillard governments, died on Sunday at the age of 74 while on a tour of Europe. He suddenly had a coronary heart attack.
Crean is fondly remembered by politicians of all parties and his principled stand against the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
However, the televangelist sums up his failed stint as opposition leader as he was sacked for celebrating without a meeting of voters.
In 2003, he approved a pleasant chat on what was then called Rove Live on Channel 10, hoping to connect with youth voters. But the lighthearted clip – “says Simon” – only confirmed that he’s a nasty TV performer.
Part of the interview — Crain said, “Simon says if you want universal health care, raise your hand” — was widely reported because his rival John Howard’s administration had no plans to dismantle Medicare.
The late Mr. Crean compounded his problems by accepting Rowe’s invitation to appear as his fairly standard political rival, a decade his senior who had listened to the disorder all his life.
“Hello ladies and gentlemen,” he mentioned with a nod, trying out Mr. Howard’s strained voice.
Simon Crean’s train wreck interview with Rowe McManus confirmed why he was the only federal Labor leader in over 100 years to not run an election marketing campaign at all.
Political commentator Annabelle Crabb, known as an interview about her “private ten embarrassing things they’ve seen politicians do”.
Voters are upset by the October 2003 information vote, in which only 18% voted for Crane as popular prime minister, compared to 58% for Howard.
Less than six weeks after that vote, Crean was replaced as Labor leader by 42-year-old shadow treasurer Mark Latham, the youngest new federal leader since 1901.
Crain backed Latham to prevent his main rival Kim Beazley from returning to the Labor leadership after losing two elections in 1998 and 2001.
His jovial rival, like himself, was also the son of Gough Whitlam’s Minister of Power.
Since federation in 1901, no federal Labor opposition leader other than incumbents had been denied the opportunity to lead the celebrations to an election.
This puts Crean in the same league as former Liberal leaders Alexander Downer and Brendan Nelson.
Like former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke, Crean was chairman of the Australian Council of Trade Unions before winning a parliamentary seat in 1990 and immediately becoming a minister.
But unlike Hawke, he lacked the TV charisma of someone who won 4 elections to become Labour’s longest-serving prime minister.
Crane was particularly similar to one other Labor boss who showed a tree on TV and lacked the political ability to connect with voters.
Simon Crean, as the embattled opposition leader in 2003, confirmed a sweet talk on Rove Live in the hope of connecting with youth voters.
Arthur Calwell, who failed three elections in 1961, 1963 and 1966, opposed sending Australian troops to the Vietnam War and misplaced his final resting place in a landslide opposite the brand new, telegenic Liberal Prime Minister Harold Holt.
In another historical parallel, Crean opposed the Iraq War in early 2003 and advised US President George W. Bush when he addressed the Australian Parliament 12 months later.
In both cases, these Labor leaders, who have been unnatural on television, could be proven by historical past, if not politics.
Rowe would become an unwitting Labor energy trader.
Beasley, in his second incarnation as opposition leader in November 2006, confused the TV host, who was grieving the death of his actress wife Belinda Emmett from breast cancer, with George W. Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove.
Rowe McManus (pictured) gave an enjoyable interview with Simon Crean, but it just confirmed that he’s insane on TV.
“The first thing I’d like to say is this: Our thoughts and the thoughts of many, many Australians today will be with Karl Rowe as he goes through the very sad funeral of his beloved wife,” he mentioned.
A month later, in December 2006, the Labor Party replaced Mr Beasley with Kevin Rudd.
Rudd won the November 2007 election, ending Labour’s nearly 12-year political wilderness, after Rowe asked him the odd question several days before the election: “Who would you turn gay for?”
“My wife Teresa.”
At least for the dashing Labor boss, who had built up a following by presenting the Seven Sunrise Breakfasts, the answer was simple.
Crane would go on to serve as a minister in every Rudd government, and his ministerial career culminated in March 2013 when he was known to beleaguered Labor prime minister Julia Gillard to allow a leadership leak earlier than a rival candidate had made a bid.
Timing wasn’t really his forte.
However, the late former leader left a legacy and there is now a 50-50 split between unions and rank-and-file at Labor Party conferences.
He had fought to reduce union stability from 60%, yet it was a struggle that few voters or TV viewers cared about when Crane put the fireplace in his political capital 20 years ago.