Spiffing leader? Just apply spit and polish

Spiffing leader? Just apply spit and polish, by Suzanne Carbone -
3rd December 2003
(Credit: The Age)

He's the bovver boy from western Sydney who called John Howard an arse licker and is now after his job. Mark Latham's larrikin persona is central to his appeal as a working-class man who understands the battlers, so the advice from the image experts is: don't tamper with the format, but a small makeover won't go astray.

Pollster Rod Cameron, managing director of ANOP, said Mr Latham was elected "warts and all" and should not change, but he needed to develop the other side of his personality as former prime minister Bob Hawke did. "Latham's been elected because he's a left-field, high-risk, warts-and-all, crazy, brave leader," Mr Cameron said. "You don't want to change that, but add the other side.

"Hawke came in as leader as a drunken, loutish womaniser and said, 'That's what I am, but I'm also this: possessed with fine judgement, a very good leader, moderate when required, calm and authoritative under pressure.' "

Celebrity agent and ALP fund-raiser Max Markson, who organised the 2001 function that Mr Latham attended before breaking the arm of a taxi driver, said the new Labor leader did not need any tweaking because he would be automatically transformed by the job. "The mantle of leadership will give him a new aura and presence," Mr Markson said. "That added responsibility will automatically soften the edges."

Mr Markson also likened Mr Latham to Mr Hawke, and Australian Test captain Ricky Ponting, who had colourful pasts but settled into leadership roles. "Ricky Ponting was seen as a larrikin and now he's cricket captain. Bob Hawke was famous for skolling a yard of beer and having a world record for that when at Oxford."

Mr Markson said Mr Latham's gift of the gab was reminiscent of another former prime minister. "Paul Keating had a wonderful use of language and turn of phrase, and I think Latham has that same quality."

Celebrity agent Harry M. Miller said Mr Latham needed a slight personality "tidy up". "He needs a bit of tidy up in his head, and perhaps occasionally in his mouth," Mr Miller said. "I'm sure his heart is OK, it just needs a dust."

Chadwick Model Agency chief executive Peter Chadwick said Mr Latham did not need an emergency makeover as seen on television's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but he could benefit from a stylist's advice. "Possibly new glasses and a different hairstyle," Mr Chadwick said, adding that his suits were appropriate. "He's got that larrikin persona so you can't whack him into designer suits and change that whole image."


Official websites

Australian Labor Party

Markson Sparks!

Harry M Miller Group