Mark Latham is today running for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation in the Upper House.

Since he resigned as Labor leader he’s been the target of a lot of abuse. Especially today. Just remember, this wasn’t always the case. He used to be the target of love letters in our national papers written by our most astute political and journalisming minds.

If you bump into any of these people, please remind them.

What the media said about Latham

Paul Kelly wrote: “The battle for the Latham story has begun – it will be the greatest contest in Australian politics.”

Alan Ramsay said: there’s a “Mack truck” coming for Howard.

A Crikey writer long forgotten predicted “a Labor mini-landslide is not out of the question””.

Michelle Grattan opined that the new Labor leader was “steeped in the experience and values of Whitlamism”. She declared that Latham “pitches his political message to the suburbs Whitlam successfully wooed all those years ago”.

Laura Tingle thought the God-awful Medicare Gold policy was a “politically devastating policy idea”. She thought it was good.

Maxine McKew spoke of “the inevitability of the Latham ascension”. Three years later she would take Howard’s seat. Three years after that she too would be gone.

For more, travel back in time with Gerard Henderson.

What’s remarkable about the predictions is that so many of them are still around: Kelly, Grattan and Tingle.

Beyond sycophants

Not everything said about Latham back then was bonkers.

Shockingly, one of the more sensible essays about Latham came from Margaret Simons, a one-time biographer of Malcolm Fraser, the second worst PM to be named Malcolm.

Simons offers some interesting insights into why Latham’s One Nation flirtation has turned into something more. It fits with his political philosophy.

Simons quotes Latham as having written:

I would argue that the political spectrum is best understood as a struggle between insiders and outsiders – the abstract values of the powerful centre, versus the pragmatic beliefs of those who feel disenfranchised by social change. This is a different framework to class-based politics. Rather than drawing their identity from the economic system, people see their place in society as a reflection of their access to information and public influence. The insiders/outsiders divide has become a reliable guide to electoral behaviour.

Writing in September 2004, Simons explains:

The divide explains the rise of Pauline Hanson, Latham says. It explains why Australians voted down a republic with a politician-appointed president, even though most wanted an Australian head of state. It explains the failure of Paul Keating, and the success of John Howard. If Latham succeeds, it will explain his victory.

She concludes by observing:

Latham has been fighting the [Labor] party for most of his life. One of the notable things about him is that his success has been achieved largely in spite of the Labor Party machine, and without significant support from any of its factions. His support base has been built from outside the party. Unlike most of the leaders who preceded him, he owes very few favours.

What will happen next?

There’s been a lot of speculation about how long the love affair between Latham and leader Pauline Hanson will last. Who knows? When it comes to Latham , it’s best not to make predictions. Especially about the future, as Mr Henderson would say.

(That’s not true. grab the popcorn, this is going to get ugly.)