The other, by Jessica Irvine, gave a historical account of Members of Parliament down through the ages, categorised by their recent profession or trade immediately prior to entering Parliament, and indicated that at present our 'Representatives' are not as representative of the 'common man' as they have been in the past.
This would put Julia Gillard (a former lawyer) and Tony Abbott (high academic achiever in economics and law, journalist, Rhodes Scholar and career politician) in the 'toffs' category, and neither would be one of the 'common people; although both have come from immigrant families who struggled to support them, their aspirations and their education.
Of course, the notion of what is a 'common person' may have changed, and be continually changing, now that more than 30% of our younger generation have University degrees and many more have a trade or other post-secondary qualification.
We Australians pride ourselves on our egalitarian society – you do not need, and have never needed, to be a multi-millionaire nor have family or business connections to run for high office. Whatever 'side of the tracks' your family lived on, you can 'pull yourself up by your own bootstraps' from very 'common' beginnings.
Both these leaders have done just that and they are not the only ones in the recent past, as there are similar stories about Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd and to some extent Whitlam, and others in the more distant past. Those former political leaders gained clear signals from the public – at least for some of the elections they contested.
I am interested in speculating about what has happened this time, when neither person (Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott) has seemed to capture the public support to form government in their own right.
These two contenders for the 2010 electoral cycle for Prime Minister both made huge efforts to identify with the 'common Australian' and even vied for the position of 'underdog' in an attempt to appeal to the (mythical?) Australian sympathy vote for the struggling person.
Perhaps this strategy didn't work. On the contrary, the Independents, small parties and 'informal votes' all have had more supporters than usual. I wonder if this indicates disillusionment with the style and perceived leadership qualities of the two major parties (both leaders since the election have made announcements they are willing to consider changes to the process of the Parliament).
It is not my job to give a blow-by-blow post-election analysis, nor to predict the final result. However, one comment from a professional analyst, Lenore Taylor, caught my eye. She thinks that many of the 'next-day-blues' and recriminations are missing the point, that both the campaigns by the major party leaders failed because they relied too much on 'focus groups' of the 'common man', and not enough on tight, positive policies set out by the leaders and their advisors.
Lenore Taylor may have hit the mark. If I look to the way the Lord calls to His service common people (such as fishermen) and endow them with a boldness to allow them to become the greatest leaders of all time, then maybe I can get a clue as to what the 'common man' really responds to as true leadership.
This is one example from Jesus. The parable of the Talents as related by both Matthew and Luke (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-28) tells us that those who use their Talents well and wisely and increase their value, will be those who are both successful and rewarded.
The disciples of Jesus could talk the language of the ordinary people of their time and culture. They made themselves available for doing the Lord's Will and relaying this to the general public. To do this they needed to be very effective leaders indeed, and they used their Talents to persuade the public to follow them – 'not' with might and not with fear and not by pretending to be 'the same as the common man', but with a strong, positive message from The Lord.
It makes me think that perhaps the 'common man and woman' do not feel comfortable following a 'common leader', but someone who, although able to empathise with them, can show exceptional leadership qualities and provide true leadership with a positive message.
It makes me think that sometimes politicians of all colours try too hard to emphasise how 'common' they were. It kind of has 'the opposite effect' …..
But political leaders come, and political leaders go. Those of recent past, mentioned above, lost elections as well as won them. There is, however, one Leader who speaks to us personally, but whose great Leadership contains a positive message from God that is eternal. As a Christian, I rejoice in following this Jesus.