The Party Thieves by Barrie Cassidy

Posted by Shawn Callahan - October 17, 2010
Filed in Anecdotes, Book reviews, Leadership

The meeting of MPs “happened in his office in September 2009, when a delegation chosen by the backbench went to see him about a proposal to cut MP printing allowances. This was an issue that directly affected the ability of the backbenchers to do their job, yet the decision had been taken without any consultation with them.

Rudd listened attentively enough to three or four members of the delegation, but when a Victorian backbencher and former Victorian part secretary, Senator David Feeney, started making his contribution, Rudd exploded. He ranted: ‘I don’t give a fuck what you fuckers think’. And then, directly to Feeney, he said: ‘You can get fucked’. pp. 123-124

This is just one of many example Barrie Cassidy gives of Kevin Rudd being, as Professor Robert Sutton calls, a bosshole: someone who leaves followers disrespected, emotionally damaged and de-energized. Cassidy paints a dismal portrait of Rudd as someone who is primarily concerned for himself, someone who seeks the limelight and someone who is obsessed with trying to control everything that might impact his image. According to Cassidy the dislike for Rudd among his colleagues was so great that when the challenge came to overthrow him as prime minister the numbers flowed to Gillard so quickly and overwhelmingly in her support there wasn’t even a need for a vote.

I’m really hoping that Kevin Rudd’s behaviour detailed in this book is an exception in politics because we can’t expect our country to be governed effectively if our prime minister intimidates his staff and ministerial colleagues to the point where no one is willing to disagree or debate the issues which are going to affect millions of Australian’s lives. It seams to me that outrageous bosshole behaviour is diminishing rapidly in our corporations I’m pleased to say. In most cases (I wish I could say in all cases) bosses are held to account. That’s not to say we can’t slow down our efforts to call appalling behaviour. I just hope this book helps those people in politics to realise it’s time to dial back the arrogance and direct their power to making a difference for their constituents.

I read this book in two days, which is unusual for me. I found the stories gripping. It’s an easy read. The first two-thirds chronicle the period leading up to the 2010 election from the point where Malcolm Turnbull’s loses the opposition leadership and the role Godwin Gretch. Then the rise of Tony Abbot at the new opposition leader and his shaky start. But the majority of part 1 of The Party Thieves is focussed on Kevin Rudd. His 2007 election win, his temper and bad behaviour, Julia’s rise, and the dismissal. The last third is a diary of the 2010 election interspersed with recollections from Barrie about his days as Bob Hawke’s press secretary.

I suspect this book is going to create a lot of controversy. Highly recommend it.

About Shawn Callahan
Shawn is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

2 Responses to “The Party Thieves by Barrie Cassidy”

  1. Wayne Phillips Says:

    I’m reading Pilger’s A Secret Country which I bought years ago. Cassidy’s portrait of Rudd as one “primarily concerned for himself, …who seeks the limelight, and … who is obsessed with trying to control everything that might impact his image”… sounds a lot like his old maaaaate and political boss Hawkie.

  2. Adrienne van Gelder Says:

    The book sounds a must read, particularly in the light of this week’s events. Barry Cassidy was on ABC24 this morning suggesting that had gillard given the rela story at the time of the dismissal of Rudd a lot of things would now be different.