The Life of Politics by Peter Howson

by
July 1984, no. 62

The Life of Politics by Peter Howson

Wiking Press, 1013p, $39.95pb

The Life of Politics by Peter Howson

by
July 1984, no. 62

Peter Howson’s diaries are the most interesting insider’s view of politics since Alfred Deakin supplemented his income by writing anonymously for the Morning Post. Howson did not rise to the same heights as Deakin, so the interest of his diaries remains in political practice rather than policy. Accordingly, Graham Freudenberg, speechwriter and confidant to Gough Whitlam for much of the period covered by the diaries, finds the book fascinating, while, Lynne Duncan, Melbourne writer and political activist, finds its revelations of the mental processes of the establishment intriguing.

‘S
unday 26 October 1969 ... This evening I went to evensong at Christ Church to give thanks for the election result.’

For the men born to rule – and Peter Howson was a finely preserved specimen of the tribe in his generation – God was not only a Liberal, but a highly discriminating one at that. After all, the 1969 election for which Howson gave thanks at South Yarra slashed the Liberal Government’s majority by seventeen, to seven, and made John Gorton’s replacement as Prime Minister virtually inevitable.

In the very next line in the diary, Howson writes:

By this evening I had no doubts at all that we should initiate moves to challenge the leadership as Gorton has obviously failed us over the last 18 months, and the true image of the Prime Minister is now getting through to the electorate, rather than the phoney image that was portrayed during the leadership struggle in January 1968.

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