My mate Harvey turned the volume down on the Grateful Dead - just enough so the windows stopped rattling - and opened the fridge door.
He decapped his next bruskie. “Napolean,” he said, ”once observed that a leader is a merchant of hope.”
This, I thought, could be going anywhere so best to keep quiet and see.
“Problem is,” he continued, before engaging in a prolonged chugalug, “we haven’t got any.”
“What,” I asked, “Leaders or hope?”
“Both.” He belched hugely. “Take Julie. For a start, she lacks that certain… well, let’s say she thinks gravitas is what stops us flying off the earth into space.”
I waited until Jerry Garcia had finished his solo. “Luckily, she hasn’t much competition.”
“Totally.” Harvey cracked another stubbie as he warmed to his subject. “Now Abbott, well, he thinks leadership is like being a goalie; his job isn’t to kick goals, just to hang around at the back and stop the other side from ever kicking any.”
“But surely,” I countered, “He does have a vision.”
“Undoubtedly,” Herve replied. “I’m sure he has one every night. His bedroom roof splits asunder, a great golden light shines through and a deep, sonorous voice ponderously speaks.
He thoughtfully scratched his bare, capacious belly. ”Unless it’s the ghost of B A Santamaria coming through, in which case, it’s like a cross between a squeak and a whisper.”
We quietly contemplated the images as we drank.
“The thing of it is,” Harvey continued, “that Julie and Tony are both puppets. Jule’s strings are being pulled in all directions by the unions, the factions, the polls and big business. This explains, one, why Julie so often looks like she’s got gas, and two, why she struggles to make progress. All that equal and opposite tugging pretty much keeps her standing still. Tony’s string, on the other hand, has but one puller, Cardinal Pell.”
“I’m not saying that leading a nation is easy.” Harvey suddenly sounded a tad more subdued. “Take Churchill, he could win a war against all odds, but running a peace time economy had him stuffed. On the other hand, Hitler had the German economy running magnificently but lost the war.”
“You know,” he mused, after a moment’s contemplation, “as long as we’re at peace, maybe we need more leaders like…
The Grateful Dead album reached is crackly end. “No,” I murmured. ”let’s not even go there.”
In an effort to deflect him, I sought his assessment of the Independents.
Harvey ran a hand the size of an adult flathead over his balding pate and down his grey ponytail. “At least Wilkie understands that power is about leverage. The pity of it is that Peter Slipper broke his lever. And he only had one.”
He drank a silent toast to Andrew’s misfortune. “I shall finish,” he said, “as I began, with a quote. A computer geek named Allen Curtis Kay once said, ‘the best way to predict the future is to invent it’.”
So, I wondered, which merchant of hope is inventing ours?