I met former PM Kevin Rudd during a Channel 7 forum organised by my Executive Producer, Adam Boland. I was impressed with Kevin Rudd’s determined approachability. It was the kind of televised event that could be taken as cynical and facetious but for those in the room at least, for those brief moments, we got what we all want to believe – that politicians are just like us, and that they actually like us.
As if to ram this point home, Kevin bounced up to my wife and daughter and I at the end of the broadcast. he spent a minute to discuss parenting and shared a quick story that he his children had ‘bumps’ on their head just like our baby did. We were self-conscious about our baby’s small forehead bump but the PM came down to our level and it felt entirely genuine.
It was classic Kevin.
During the forum, the questions flew at him like those glowing balls on Tron that you deflect with your frisbee. Rudd was a master with the frisbee.
Like every recent appearance on Sunrise, he had no warning of any question – he had to be on his toes, and he performed with class. Unsurprisingly, it was at the peak of his popularity.
When he was directly in front of voters, Kevin would not squirm his way out of questions like he did when in a studio battling the wits of a TV presenter. He couldn’t avoid saying anything in particular, as became his unfortunate talent, using his stalling phrases ad nauseam – ‘Let me just say this’, ‘The fact of the matter is’ and the rest of them. Double-ugh.
He was a real guy. He was certainly a diplomat and could speak with programmatic specificity when he needed to, but when he was talking to Sunrise staff, or when he was on Rove, I thought Kevin was painfully real.
Ultimately, he was too real to be Prime Minister.
From what we hear he managed his staff like he was a McDonald’s crew trainer burning through teenagers who couldn’t meet unrealistic targets.
Perhaps it was the demanding reformist agenda that needed to burn through one leader along the way, I am not sure, but I think Kevin was a victim of being what we wanted in a leader – one of us.
Kev tried, often too hard to prove it. He quickly mastered twitter and told us what films he saw on the weekend. He said “Are we ready to roll, guys?” at the start of pres conferences. Last week he told Latika Bourke, a press gallery journo, that she had a nice scarf. Hell, he even appeared on Rove. Twice!
He was criticised for all those things. We want a real leader, but not too real.
Yet today, when Kev broke down in his farewell speech, he had us feeling he was on our level again.
Julia Gillard, Rudd’s replacement, is, I fear, what the job needs. A Politician.
Shrewd, precise, Gillard is like the colleague at Maccas who hits their targets every week. Hopefully she learns to have fun too – to be real.
But then – as I think we learned today – that would be asking too much of a Prime Minister.