The inside story of Mark Latham’s TV no-show
PAULINE Hanson's political relationships never last long, but most of them have at least survived until lunchtime.
Not so her blockbuster alliance with Mark Latham, which spectacularly imploded on Wednesday morning at a time most teenagers are still in bed.
And unfortunately I was there to witness it from just inches away.
Hanson's office had unequivocally told Studio 10 the previous day that she and Latham would be coming on the show to discuss his new role as NSW leader and future state MP. The interview was locked in, promoted and referred to throughout the show.
Then, just minutes before it was meant to be broadcast live, chaos erupted. Hanson was there but Latham, unequivocally, was not.
With no forewarning Latham had simply done a runner. Where was he? Hanson didn't know? What was he doing? Hanson couldn't say.
Here was a leader literally in the middle of showcasing her star candidate to the nation and he had gone AWOL. Hanson ended up doing the interview next to an empty chair. Even for a party as used to rogues as One Nation it was more than embarrassing. It was excruciating.
And yet it was to get even worse. At precisely the same time as Hanson and her minder were either baffled by Latham's whereabouts or trying to cover them up, the former Labor leader was actually spotted by members of the studio audience at the café next door - just metres away.
Now it had become a farce of pantomime proportions. As Hanson feigned ignorance as to the whereabouts of her star candidate the crowd could have literally pointed and shouted: "He's behind you!"
Having known Latham for many years, naturally I went to ask him why he had failed to appear on our show as promised, only to be told that he had never agreed to come on the show in the first place - something that obviously came as a surprise to the producer who had booked him.
Indeed, Studio 10 has records that confirm Latham was promised by Hanson's office to appear with her on the show, and so this leads to only three real possibilities:
1. Latham was lying to Hanson;
2. Hanson was lying to us; or
3. One Nation is just completely and utterly incompetent.
If 1, and Latham or his office hung Hanson out to dry, it would only reinforce the view of the Hanson acolytes and Latham sceptics who are convinced he is simply using her to regain his political ascendancy and ultimately replace her as leader.
If 2, and Hanson and her office knew Latham wasn't coming but thought they could still get a free kick just with her they were sorely mistaken, as anyone who saw the segment knows. Hanson got a free kick alright, the only problem was she was on the receiving end of it.
But as damaging as either of these scenarios might be, they are both nothing compared to option 3, and it is that which One Nation should be most afraid of.
Backstabbing and lies are nothing new in politics - indeed, there are few other techniques by which a politician can survive. However the survival rate for chronic idiocy is considerably lower.
Think of a political party as a plane: It is perfectly capable of staying in the air even if the pilot is an arsehole. But if the pilot doesn't know how to fly then it's time to put your head between your knees and kiss your arse goodbye.
And the one thing that is crippling One Nation more than anything else isn't a lack of voter anger or a deep abiding love for the major parties, it's the fact that it literally cannot hold on to its candidates. The few that make it into Parliament typically defect almost immediately afterwards - even right-wing voters scoff at this as the "Franning Effect" - and its latest star candidate defected from an appearance with his leader on day one.
One senior news executive shook his head at me yesterday and said "They couldn't organise a root in a brothel" - but at least for most politicians that is only an optional part of the job. One Nation literally could not organise a TV interview at a TV station and that is a far more terminal level of incompetence.