Passing bull 13 – Which loyalty?

The change of PM has brought a lot of hysteria about loyalty, treachery and coups.

Personal loyalties are good and should if possible be honoured.  I did not like Mr Hawke as PM, but he stood up for a mate, Eddie Kornhauser, when it did not suit him to do so politically, and I admired him for it.  It was a good case of personal loyalty in politics.

But members of a government or of a governing party also owe duties to the nation.  Sometimes the duty to the nation will be in conflict with a duty of personal loyalty.  Which should prevail?  There is no one answer.  But it is wrong to say that a person who resolves such a conflict in favour of the duty to the nation has been guilty of treachery by not allowing the personal loyalty to be paramount.  It is not just wrong to say that – it is an abuse of logic and language of the kind that shock jocks live on.  If anyone is to be charged with treachery, it is more likely to be the person who puts personal obligations over those owed to the nation – E M Forster notwithstanding.

It is also wrong to describe a party meeting to vote on the leadership as a coup.  People vote for members of that party knowing that its rules enable just such a change to be made – just as people follow F1 drivers knowing that the rules (‘team orders’) allow teams to require one driver to give way to another.  In February of this year, one such meeting effectively put the PM on probation for six months.  If the party by a majority concluded that the PM had not improved enough in that time, the end was inevitable.

If you want a model of personal loyalty to a political leader being paramount over obligations to the nation, just look at the relationship between the SS and their Fuhrer.  Even our shock jocks might draw the line there.

But in a week that was bound to offer tawdriness, Bronwyn Bishop, if the allegation levelled at her is true, gave new meaning to the term dishonour by voting against the man who in part signed his own death warrant by putting her on probation – simply out of personal loyalty, and when it did not suit him to do so politically.