In the annals of Test cricket, there’s never been a cricketer as self-centred, single-minded and selfish as English batsman Geoffrey Boycott.
Boycott naturally infuriated Australian opponents and fans for nearly twenty years, but he infuriated his own teammates even more. Insisting on snail’s pace batting when his team needed quick runs. Playing for the not out red ink and his average rather than for the team. Treating teammates as being there to serve his interests, not he theirs and the team’s. Happily running out batting partners to save his own miserable wicket. And missing several years of his Test career, including the Lillee-Thomson Ashes series in 1974-75, merely because he was pissed off at being passed over for the England captaincy.
Boycott was a highly-talented batsman, but no team player. If he couldn’t get his way, his team could go jump as far as he was concerned. And, naturally, if you listen to Boycott, everything that went wrong always was someone else’s fault. That run-out batsman? Well, ee ba goom, he didn’t respond to my call for a suicidal single, so he can only blame himself. Now, as a cricket columnist and broadcaster, he has an opinion on everything and everyone, and of course none measure up to the gold standard of his own brilliance.
Bereft of his prime ministership, Malcolm Turnbull now is confirming that he is, and always was, the Geoffrey Boycott of modern Australian politics. His latest ‘secret recording’ from his self-imposed New York exile, which conveniently hijacked the news cycle on Monday morning, is proof if any was still needed.
In the recording, Turnbull claimed that while his government was behind 51-49 per cent in published polls, he was ahead 52-48 in private polling of marginal seats, and that his enemies in the parliamentary Liberal party and media chose to ‘blow up’ the government in spite of his putting it and them in such a good position. Like Boycott, Turnbull’s emotionally-unintelligent refrain is a case of ‘don’t blame me, blame them’. True to his past form, he’s blithely ignored any contributions he made to the government’s tinderbox state that ignited the folly of leadership week, being in utter denial of the truth that the sticky wicket he was batting on was of his own 2016 creation.
As for previous PMs, they were readily disparaged by Turnbull, just like Boycott disparaged the likes of England captains Brearley, Denness and Illingworth back in the day. Having claimed he is ‘not driven by hate’, Turnbull bitterly laid into Tony Abbott (for the second time in his Big Apple residency) and Kevin Rudd. ‘There is no way I would be hanging around embittered — Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott — well seriously, these people are like, sort of miserable, miserable ghosts’, he proclaimed to the chuckles of his New York salonista audience.
Not driven by hate? Give us a break. Malcolm’s driving a lorry-load of it.
As each week goes by, the Liberal parliamentary team should feel as relieved as the England team did when Boycott took his bat and ball and stayed home in the mid-1970s. Malcolm Boycott wouldn’t stay with his team if he couldn’t be captain, having come to power after undermining his predecessor, Abbott, with the same justification.
Turnbull’s constant eruptions during the Wentworth by-election campaign – a campaign caused by his own selfishness in not sticking around to the general election and preserving the precarious majority his own appalling captaincy inflicted on the government – are undermining Scott Morrison on the basis that is he, Turnbull, can’t lead the side then no-one else can. If that means running out ScoMo, or getting Peter Dutton dropped from the team, so be it.
And, as with Boycott, nothing is ever Malcolm’s fault. It’s Abbott, it’s Dutton, it’s Alan Jones, it’s Rupert and Sky News after dark, it’s the climate deniers: it’s never him, his judgment or his actions. He will never admit that in pursuing the prime ministership he destabilised the Liberal party for his own selfish ends; that when in the job he had no guiding vision of his own to justify his selfish leadership ambitions; and that had he shown any competence in political and electoral judgment he would have been the father of an Australian republic, never had made Godwin Grech a household name, would have been elected comfortably as PM in 2016, and the ABC leadership would not have imploded thanks to actions his displeasure set in motion. That ‘miserable ghost’ Abbott, for one, would now be no more than an irritating irrelevance.
Above all, while opponents may have mishandled how the Liberals brought his festering leadership to its messy denouement, Turnbull himself created the conditions leading to his own fall. Just like Geoffrey. But his towering ego never will allow him to accept that.
After Boycott left the English Test team in a huff, it struggled for a while before rediscovering how to win. But it was a happier and better-balanced team, even in 1974-75, and somehow his former teammates muddled through without him. As the weeks pass, the Liberal party room – and Scott Morrison – must increasingly feel the same about Malcolm Turnbull.
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