Paul Anthony Lennon, recent ex-premier of Tasmania, is a modern-day political anachronism.
In an age of the urbane, media savvy, technocratic, “third-way” political leaders from Tony Blair to Kevin Rudd, and all the current mob of state premiers in between, Paul Lennon stood out like a big, bright, red beacon.
Or saveloy, to some of his more unkind critics.
It is impossible to be ambivalent about Paul Lennon: you either love him or hate him and, unfortunately for him, more Tasmanians than not seemed to hate him.
Well, “hate” is too harsh an emotion for the ordinary voter, but public opinion had moved inexorably against Lennon and he and his party knew it could not be retrieved.
Lennon has had image problems almost since he took over as premier in 2004 from a dying Jim Bacon. As deputy premier, his uncompromising “whatever it takes” approach got the tick of public approval, but that was counter-balanced and complimented by the silky-smooth delivery of premier Bacon and the hard-edged number crunching of treasurer David Crean.
It is significant and poignant that Lennon himself, in his resignation speech to the media, referred to the triumvirate as his “glory days” in politics.
The departure in early 2004 of first Crean and then Bacon, both to ill health, left Lennon on his own, exposed to any weaknesses in the government and in himself.
And there certainly were weakness. In Tasmania’s micro-parliament of just 25 in the executive chamber, finding capable cabinet replacements from such a small gene pool was going to be difficult.
To prove that point, Lennon lost two deputy premiers. Bryan Green, a Lennon protégé, stepped aside in 2006 over a monopoly deal granted to a company run by an ex-Labor minister; then in April this year his replacement, Steve Kons, resigned after admitting to lying in parliament. Both now languish on the backbench.
During Lennon’s premiership a media narrative developed which portrayed him as belligerent, secretive and self-serving, and everything he did or said was interpreted through that prism.
Cast against the affable, gen-X Liberal leader in Will Hodgman, the political scales in Tasmania, which had strongly favoured Labor since 1998, were in danger of tipping. Hodgman is the longest serving opposition leader in the country and enjoys opinion poll popularity his mainland colleagues would kill for.
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