The first book I ever worked on was an edited book on trust in politicians. At the time, our publishers (UNSW Press) thought the situation was so bad that the cover image they chose was of one dog sniffing another dog’s backside.*
One of the worst things about the Latham Diaries, in my view, is the risk that they will reduce Australians’ trust in politicians. As I’ve argued elsewhere (PDF), the biggest losers from a general decline in trust in politicians are Labor, since distrust in politicians and small government go hand in hand (Ronald Reagan knew this — which is why he once told an audience that the nine most terrifying words in the English language were "I’m from the government and I’m here to help").
But Howard recognises that distrust in politicians can hurt his side of politics too, and when he took a brief break from point-scoring yesterday, he got it right:
Mr Howard said he hoped people considering politics were not put off by the comments of Mr Latham.
"I remain an optimist and I hope that out of all of this Latham stuff people don’t lose the sense of optimism and a positive view about public life because there are still, on both sides of politics in this country, an enormous number of men and women who are trying very hard all their working life to make things better," he said.
"Now we disagree on how to make things better, but I don’t doubt the sincerity of people on both sides, the great majority, who are trying very hard and living ordinary lives trying to make it better for the country."
* At the time, UNSW Press happily rode roughshod over our objections, assuring us that marketing knew best (I now realise this is a very common approach in the publishing world). Then the Parliamentary bookshop refused to put it on the shelves because they thought the cover was too offensive.