Sunday, March 26, 2006

So long & thanks for all the fish

To the acclaim of a boisterous MCG crowd, Dame Edna Everage and the Dalai Lama officially closed Melbourne's Commonwealth Games last night in a gala ceremony.

The growing cult of His Holiness – Melbourne's first popularly elected Lord Mayor – confounds observers, particularly Steve Bracks, the once-popular Premier who shared the stage with him last night. Bracks had no choice but to give his salesman’s smile as the crowd went berko every time the Lord Mayor’s name was mentioned in an otherwise deathly-dull official ceremony.

The public's canonisation of the Lord Mayor is a very Melbourne thing. Citizens have warmed to his image as an earnest, likeable non-politician who mangles the language and goes out of his way not to make tough decisions that might upset anyone. He's the daggy ethnic do-gooder who can laugh at himself, a threat to no one and a walking billboard for Multicultural Melbourne.

So when Peter Costello rails against "mushy misguided multiculturalism" he's clearly not speaking to his hometown constituency, but trying to stir up the redneck vote in more troubled and less civilised regional centres, like Sydney. A point made eloquently in Saturday's Australian by George Megalogenis when he wrote that "Sydney and its cranky cousin" Brisbane could learn much from Melbourne's CommGames. George's piece is, sadly, not online.

For Bracks, the Cult of So must be bemusing. But he has benefited from the So show. "It's So's weakness that makes the State Government his greatest ally," Terry Maher and I wrote for Crikey18 months ago. "Bracks loves So because those who can understand him realise he does what he's told by his Spring Street masters." And that hasn't changed.

My assessment of the Lord Mayor back then now looks a little narky. Terry and I criticised his communication skills, but the Lord Mayor has turned this into a positive. He's now the cuddly, lovable emblem of the City – replacing the official native Games mascot, Karak the South-eastern Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (remember him?)

So has employed a very expensive PR team to manage his image – but his public image reflects the private persona. The Lord Mayor is a humble man, and his personal touch has made him the city’s most popular and, soon-to-be, longest-serving civic leader.

But it's as well to remember what got him there: money and ambition.


Anonymous Blue Collar Bob said...

How long before the John So bubble bursts do you reckon? Or is this an endless honeymoon? i see Andrew Bolt has been deifying him as a poster boy for non-racist Australia. Yuk!

1:15 am  
Blogger Caz said...

Yes, he is a humble man, and does give the impression that his public persona is no fraud - that's what people like; plus he's so darned cute & happy.

But, lets not forget that he did have a life before the Mayoral robes - the life he will go back to - as a very successful and very wealthy businessman. He might be cute & funny, but he's also one very, very smart.

How is it that within all of the column inches devoted to him by the opinion writers in the MSM they fail to acknowledge & praise John So the savvy & successful business man? A bit of envy; me thinks.

12:48 am  

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