Was John Howard's Righ Faction behind John Brogden's demise?
A SUBTERRANEAN campaign run by right-wing elements within the New South Wales Liberal Party had been sniping away at John Brogden's leadership for several months, retailing rumours about his personal life and even the durability of his marriage.
When he told a joke about the wife of former premier Bob Carr being a "mail-order bride" at a party in Sydney three weeks ago it became the catalyst for a fresh round of gossip that ended up as dinner party conversation among Sydney's neo-conservative activists.
Yesterday, Brogden named the national president of the Young Liberals, Alex Hawke, as the source of the stories about his exploits at the Hilton party.
"One of them, the federal president of the Young Liberal movement, Alex Hawke, has been named as pushing (efforts to undermine me)," Mr Brogden said. "He needs to take a long, hard look at himself.
"Everybody in politics has people out to get them, particularly the paranoid ones."
Brogden has been described Hawke as the "clown" inside the big ideological tent that was the Liberal Party.
The whispering campaign to suggest to anyone who would listen that Brogden not only had wandering hands, but to also imply that a long-time exemplar of small-l liberalism was a racist, coincided with a fraying of the relations between state and federal Liberals.
Yesterday morning, as Brogden looked around for vital support to stay in his job, he turned on the radio to hear John Howard effectively hanging him out to dry, refusing to endorse his continued tenure as Opposition leader.
"His position and his future is in his hands and that of his parliamentary colleagues," Howard said.
By last Thursday, Brogden's chief of staff Peter Frazer had heard that the Sunday Telegraph was planning to publish a story about his boss's behaviour. Frazer declined to comment, but it is understood that well before the tip-off on The Sunday Telegraph's story he could discern the hand of Howard staffers in the campaign.
The Right's strong dislike for Brogden apparently stretches back to 2000 when, as a frontbencher, he wrote in an essay: "We can no longer sustain a system where the age of consent for sexual relations discriminates between males and females based on sexual preference. If the state has no place in the bedroom, then it has no place in discriminating against homosexual males on the basis of age."
Earlier this year, when Howard's Right Faction used the fast growing far right christian support in Liberal branches to take over two organisations that were once small-l liberal strongholds, the Women's Council and the State Executive, they began using a ginger group of conservatives to increase pressure on Brogden.
Relations with Howard Office have also been badly strained in recent times as many NSW Liberals have come to believe John Howard did not want them to win the next election, because it would be better federally to have a Labor government in office in NSW.
It has been widley reported that the rights factions leader in NSW (the man for whom Alex Hawke works) Upper House MP David Clarke (a member of Opus Dei *1) office has been at the centre of this nasty campaign.
Whilst they and other memebers of the looney NSW Liberal Party Right may well be cock a hoop over their supposed win in forcing a basically reasonable man like John Brogden out of office over private matters. They should remember that their leader the Prime Minister it is believed by a number of Canberra insiders also to have had his own problems in this arena.
I'm sure they would not be very happy if the PM's own quite complicated private life history were exposed and spread out all over the newspapers and TV - as they have seen fit to have done to John Brogden.
He is said to have had a long term relationship outside of his marriage (dating from his time in Canberra when he was the Federal Opposition Leader) and we are not talking about his supposed fling (and the writer understands untrue) with the the high profile journalist/public servant Pru Goward.
*1 Opus Dei is an extreme right wing catholic cult which was spawned during the Spanish Civil War where it gave active support to the establishment of the dictatorship of Fransico Franco.
It also should never be fogotten that Opus Dei not only actively opposed the Allies during WW2 but some in its leadership infamously helped facilitate the resettlement of many Nazi War Criminals to South America at the wars end.