In February, 1971, then-Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau caused a minor ruckus when opposition MP’s accused him of having mouthed “fuck off” at them during sessions of the House of Commons. Trudeau categorically denied it, but when repeatedly pressed on the issue eventually asked — rhetorically — of a television reporter, “What is the nature of your thoughts, gentlemen, when you say ‘fuddle duddle’ or something like that?” And thus, it was given to popular Canadian perception that he did indeed mouth “fuck off” when it was alleged he had done so.
“Fuddle duddle” was born, and became all-the-rage amongst primary school students for a great many years to come.
Fast-forward to 2012, and former Australian Prime Minister-come-Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd doesn’t even bother mouthing his expletives, let alone pretend they’re something else. Indeed, as we saw in the now-infamous YouTube clip released over the weekend, he doesn’t seem to shy away from saying the word “fuck” whatsoever — repeatedly, gratuitously and with the slightest of provocations.
The question asked here is — as with the Canadian “fuddle duddle” affair — will this display of Mister Rudd’s coarser nature help or hurt him?
In the end, did the “fuddle duddle” controversy help Trudeau? Arguably, it did. Here was a man, seen by most western Canadians as being completely ‘out-of-touch’ with them, showing that he was indeed not above throwing a few epithets in the direction of his opponents now and then. This ‘demonstration of commonality’ raised his personal standing quite a bit amongst those Prairie residents who had previously felt alienated by the ‘army of suits’ dictating at them from Ottawa, and who would have loved to cuss in the faces of a few politicians themselves. However, it was a careful tightrope to walk. Trudeau could not be seen as defiling the sanctity of the House of Commons — silently held dear even by those out west — but neither could he be seen as a strict, uptight, faceless eastern dictator if he was to unite Canada under his legacy, as he eventually did with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.
Thankfully, “fuddle duddle” was neither too little, nor too much, and it did not take long for the phrase to show itself to have been a good middle-ground, and a public-relations success.
Similarly, the ‘fuddy Ruddy’ YouTube clip may go some small way to endear Mister Rudd to the ‘common Australian’ who likes to swear a bit blue in the pub now and again — but his image as a man of class and substance is going to take a right-old beating in the car park out back for it. After all, this is the man who seemingly wanted oh-so-desperately to be the first permanent Australian delegate to the UN Security Council. Making rude comments about Chinese interpreters certainly isn’t going to help that ambition come to any sort of fruition, let alone his adequately demonstrated low-tolerance for any kind of frustration — of which there is sure to be endless quantities at the United Nations.
Who leaked the Kevin Rudd swear-fest is a mystery that clouds the ability to determine their motivation behind doing so. Was it someone in Prime Minister Gillard’s office, seeking to defame Rudd and embarrass him with those who might have supported him in a leadership contest? Was it someone in Rudd’s camp — or even Kevin Rudd himself — who leaked it in an attempt to paint him in an ‘everyday Mick’ light, and boost public support for a second Rudd Prime Ministership amongst the Australian electorate?
Both choices seem somewhat likely and highly unlikely at the same time. It’s hard to see how either is truly productive, nor what the net effect to Kevin Rudd’s career shall be, but it doesn’t appear to be overwhelmingly positive.
Ultimately, those who went after Trudeau were sorry they made such a show out of the Prime Minister’s filthy habit, having handed him a golden opportunity to not only score a few points with the ‘little guy’ but entrench himself permanently into the popular culture of the day. It can be argued that “fuddle duddle” raised Trudeau out of being a mere politician, and into the realm of Canadian infamy — but sadly, the likelihood of Kevin Rudd’s expletive-laden rants to have a similar effect in Australia, 2012, are remote.
Instead of a man of class demonstrating he isn’t above letting off a little steam now-and-again, Rudd’s rants come across as nothing more than the ravings of an impatient bully and boor — but these unfortunate traits were already widely known, and thus any advantage this unsurprising revelation would have given his opponents will be muted. That said, if the common perception becomes that the intent of the clip was to embarrass him, it might garner Rudd a slight bit of sympathy amongst those who vehemently detest Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership, and seek any reason to hate it even more — but probably not that much.
Otherwise, if the release of the clip was intended to make Kevin look like a ‘bloke you’d be happy to nip down to the pub and have a beer with’, it appears that exercise has failed miserably.
My advice? Next time, try “fuddle duddle”, Mister Rudd. Otherwise, you’re just another foul-mouthed guy dropping the f-bomb on YouTube.