Toad of Toad Hall

This short piece is not intended to be a serious treatise; instead it’s a light-hearted appraisal of federal politics. We have had our fill of commentaries on the ins and outs of the Canberra scene written by self-confident ‘experts’ who believe they understand the machinations of the political class. It can’t be all that complicated though; self-interest seems to explain most of the day-by-day behaviour of our politicians.

Instead, this is a search for our very own ‘Toad’, in our very own ‘Toad Hall’, federal parliament. Persist with me if you’re up for a disrespectful tilt at our politicians.

Why Toad, an inelegant creature with none of the refinements of a classy frog? What is it about this ugly fellow that attracted me?

I suspect it was the enigmatic personality of Toad in A A Milne’s dramatisation of Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 novel Wind in the Willows (my favourite tale as a youngster), namely Toad of Toad Hall, that caught my attention at I grew up in what was then the rather sooty coal-mining precinct of Silkstone-Booval in Ipswich in SE Queensland.

He appealed to me because he was so full of ideas. Some were bright, some ridiculous, but they were always presented with such assurance, such confidence, such flair. His advocacy of his ideas was consistently enthusiastic, passionate, always patently honest. Yet the impetuosity with which he presented them resulted in blunder after blunder, which he conceded in his characteristic self-deprecating manner: “stupid Toad”, “silly Toad”, “ignorant Toad”..

The question I put to you is: Who, is our very own Toad in our very own Toad Hall, our federal parliament?

Who there has a personality that matches Toad? Can you identify a politician who consistently comes along with ‘bright’ ideas, who presents them with unbridled enthusiasm, who falls flat on his or her face over and again, but, and this is a big ‘but’, is ready to admit mistakes?

Or does your mind revert to the plethora of politicians who never do so, always seek to blame others, always find others whom they deem responsible?

Our PM is a past master at sheeting home mistakes to others. When have you heard him genuinely, I mean genuinely, accept responsibility, concede an error of judgement, appear eager to put the record straight? No, it’s always someone else’s fault. His verbal diarrhoea is legendary. As is his inability to utter a genuine full-throated ‘Sorry’. There’s always a ‘Morrison’ way of avoiding it.

Unfair appraisal? Reflect on his demeanour during press conferences, where his characteristic smirk bespeaks confidence, over-confidence some would say. Others may use a less polite descriptor.

Our PM is no ‘Toad’.

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Bruce Bilney

23/08/2021

As everyone knows, the first Toads were brought to  Queensland to eradicate Cane Beetles from sugar cane crops. They rapidly evolved to fill every niche, eating every animal they could swallow. They themselves were highly toxic, so nothing could predate them.

One notable one metamorphosed into human form.

 His name was Joh, and he became Premier of that State. He loved the use of Police, whom he gave virtually total powers, as he demonstrated at demonstrations against police powers .. 

Joh nearly became a Coalition MP with a view to becomihng PM. But too many people saw his wartiness and his toxicity.        His own bid for power failed, but the Spirit of Toad took hold in Canberra, when a much smoother, slipperier little fellow came to power in the LNP. His name was John, and he was to infect every Member of his party with Toadyism. 

Since the dark days of the Toad known Lying Rodent, as one of his own party George Toad called him, the Chief Toads have been Tony Toad, Malcolm Toad and now the quintessential Toad of all, Scott Toad. 

Well I could go on with a sort of parody of Toad of Toad Hall but the whole situation is so un-funny that I haven't the heart to continue in that vein. But I love The Wind in the Willows (I wrote a big book of ecological verse, The Breeze in the Blue~Gums, whose title is entirely a parody of Kenneth Grahame's wonderful little book). When I was a teenager my brother pointed out to me that Toad is actually the central figure in Wind in the Willows. His is a story of the irresponsible rich wastrel who goes through an eventual life change, to clutch at his own dignity after all the mayhem he has caused along the way, including paying the Barge Woman for stealing her horse and selling it to the Gypsy for a "shillin' a leg."

Would that our Toads would go through a like Road to Damascus moment. 

 H'mmm.

Ad Astra

23/08/2021

What a magnificent comment Bruce, as indeed all your comments are.   Thank you for adding a ‘Bilney’ slant to this enchanting tale.

Sadly, the prospect of any of our clutch of Toads undergoing a Road to Damascus moment is remote. They remain self-satisfiedly stuck in their own bog.

Where can we read The Breeze in the Blue-Gums?

Michael Taylor

23/08/2021

Another fine piece, Ad astra. 

I’m finding it very difficult to have even the slightest morsel of respect for our prime minister. During my term as an apolitical public servant I - as did all public servants - put aside our political allegiances and pointed our devotions to the government of the day, and to the minister we served. 

I would no longer be able to do that. Fortunately, now, I’m not called upon to do so. 

Ad Astra

24/08/2021

Michael Taylor

Thank you Michael for your compliment.

You are right when you point to the trauma that working for ‘what’s in it for me’ Morrison would evoke.

Thankfully, we are spared that!

wam

25/08/2021

Well, ad astra, I loved the book as a kid, and he is certainly no toad of the toad hall variety. Indeed if he was even 10% of james thaddeus toad he would be bearable. But he has none of the endearing characteristics of the toad, ratty, badger nor moley. However, he is in tune with the weasels and stoats? ps There is one toad that I associate with scummo and his government

Ad Astra

25/08/2021

wam

Who is he/she?

wam

31/08/2021

he/she que???  

Your concluding sentence is as agreeable to me as is the book and yes, I am no toad (nor rat, nor mole nor badger either) but does it matter if a simpleton like me is a he or a she?

ps what happened to your picture???

I have two politicians and add 2 more; how many are there?