Brumby left reeling as whip quits
August 26, 2010
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THE state government has been rocked by the bitter resignation of a Labor MP who has launched an extraordinary attack on Premier John Brumby just three months before the Victorian election.
In a three-page letter to Mr Brumby, Ivanhoe MP and government whip Craig Langdon accuses the Premier of selling out Labor MPs with policy backflips, relying too much on advice from ”faceless know-it-alls”, and locking himself away in his office rather than consulting with caucus.
Mr Langdon says in the letter, dated yesterday and obtained by The Age, that he is the victim of faceless factional warlords including federal Labor powerbroker Bill Shorten, who was unavailable for comment last night.
Bill Shorten and (inset top) John Brumby and Craig Langdon.
He says many Labor people are blaming Mr Brumby for allowing factional chiefs to organise his preselection defeat last year, and accuses senior cabinet ministers of ”threatening” the political future of people working in his office.
Mr Langdon, a long-standing member of Mr Brumby’s Right faction, has timed his resignation – effective yesterday – with the intention of forcing a byelection on Mr Brumby before the November 27 election.
Labor could struggle to hold the seat, which Mr Langdon holds with a 10.5 per cent margin. At the last state byelection, in the Labor heartland seat of Altona in February, Labor sustained a swing of about 12 per cent.
Mr Langdon told his constituents yesterday his resignation ”will” cause a byelection. But government insiders last night were studying the Victorian Constitution and the Electoral Act in the hope of finding a way to avoid a byelection, which would cost taxpayers about $300,000.
Senior Labor figures hit back last night, saying party chiefs had been almost unanimous in concluding that Mr Langdon’s candidacy was no longer tenable.
”Given his complicated personal circumstances, it was not in Craig’s interests or the ALP’s for him to stand at this year’s election,” one Labor insider told The Age. ”It was not an act of betrayal, it was an act of compassion.”
In his official resignation letter, delivered to Parliament yesterday morning, Mr Langdon, 53, who has been in Parliament since 1996, says some of his Labor colleagues engaged in ”gross acts of disloyalty and betrayal” to bring about his preselection defeat in July last year.
”When government ministers and other MPs participate and propagate the demise of long-standing, loyal and dedicated members like myself, it can only cause harm to the party and the government,” he writes.
”This was also evident in the recent federal election.”
In a dig at the man who defeated him for preselection, Banyule councillor Anthony Carbines, a former chief of staff to Education Minister Bronwyn Pike, he says his electorate needs a member who will ”not just be personally ambitious”.
The opposition last night seized on Mr Langdon’s dramatic resignation, saying he had been ”betrayed by the disloyalty of John Brumby’s faceless factional men who run the Labor Party”.
Mr Brumby yesterday said he did not know why Mr Langdon had resigned. ”He has been a solid member of parliament, a solid representative for the people of Ivanhoe,” the Premier said. ”There are always a range of complex reasons that people take into account, sometimes personal, sometimes political.”
Last night Mr Brumby’s office said it would not comment on Mr Langdon’s letter.
In the letter, Mr Langdon says he offered to retire before last year’s preselection showdown, when the Premier warned him that the factions were after him. But he was not willing to stand down for his former ally Cr Carbines, nor for ”the alternative you nominated” – the Premier’s former policy adviser, Nick Reece, who is now ALP state secretary and campaign director. Mr Reece last night declined to comment.
”The ongoing insults by yourself and others in the government following my preselection loss have been extremely offensive,” Mr Langdon writes.
”The only time you chose to speak to me [was] after the Altona byelection. This was not lost on me and showed how little interest people had in me or the Ivanhoe electorate.”
He says senior ministers had threatened the political future of his staff as they tried to find out whether he would quit.
He offers Mr Brumby three pieces of advice:
■ Rely more on talented marginal seat MPs ”rather than the young, faceless know-it-alls in your private office”.
■ Consult backbenchers, ”don’t just advise them on what the government is doing”.
■ ”Share your thoughts, consult with caucus and don’t lock yourself away …”
Lower house Speaker Jenny Lindell has a month to issue the writs for any byelection, but the poll for Ivanhoe may not be held if it is scheduled for a date after State Parliament is dissolved for the November 27 poll.
With DAVID ROOD, RICHARD WILLINGHAM
Source: The Age