Real reason Gladys got away with affair
In a world beset by unprecedented chaos and disruption it is almost reassuring to know that the grand old tradition of corruption in NSW politics quietly continues uninterrupted.
Of course corruption is not confined to the Premier State - Queensland had Sir Joh, WA had Brian Burke and Victoria currently has the only thing worse than corruption in government: Incompetence in government.
But the most shocking thing about ICAC's spectacular revelations about former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire is not how outrageous they are but how pathetic.
Say what you like about NSW Labor, at least when they did corruption they did it properly. At the height of his power Eddie Obeid was running the state government and half of Circular Quay. Daryl Maguire was struggling to sell cutlery to the Wagga Wagga RSL.
But of course there is one teeny-tiny little detail about the Maguire case that has caused a touch of consternation: He happened to be having an affair with the Premier of NSW at the time.
There is no allegation before ICAC the Premier acted corruptly but this is what's known in journalism circles as a bit of a yarn. Little wonder that many in the press are apoplectic with disbelief that the yarn is being spun as a pulp fiction romance about a sweet innocent lady who got taken in and betrayed by a shady shyster for his own nefarious ends.
It's not plausible, they protest, pointing to tapes and text messages that clearly show Gladys Berejiklian was at least passingly aware of some of her beau's dealings.
But the funny thing about pulp fiction romances is they fly off the shelves. And it's not because people actually believe them, it's because they want to believe them.
A forensic analysis of the evidence at ICAC may indeed lead any journo or lawyer or party powerbroker to conclude that the Premier's position is clearly untenable. But the average voter isn't trawling through the transcripts.
Instead they see a brave wronged woman on the six o'clock news, noble even in the face of her humiliation.
Sure, it's pure theatre. But as the old saying goes, politics is just show business for ugly people.
Of course Gladys is the opposite of ugly, which only adds even more strength to her chances of survival. The aesthetic bar for politics is so low that any vaguely attractive politician is almost always the subject of weak-kneed adulation - and no, before you say it, not just towards females.
Consider the obsession with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's boyish good looks, be they bearded or unbearded, black-faced or white. Likewise that with French President Emmanuel Macron and his wink-wink nudge-nudge older wife.
And closer to home we may consider the countless love letters to Victorian Premier Dan Andrews and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, some as vomitously prolific posts on social media, others disguised as respectable newspaper articles.
When Berejiklian came to power the same woke circles feigned outrage that her relationship status was even mentioned in public commentary about her. Now that status is the single most critical factor in her political survival.
Because while simplistic goons on the far edges see politics as black and white, in the real world it is all grey - and there are more than fifty shades.
In a black and white world Berejiklian would almost certainly be gone. Indeed it is arguable that a male premier publicly exposed on tape saying "I don't need to know about that bit" - when his MP squeeze confided in him about a questionable business deal - would be instantly eliminated. Let us not forget that Berejiklian's mentor Barry O'Farrell fell on his sword because he forgot he received a nice bottle of wine.
But it is not a black and white world. And when the Gladys bombshell dropped it wasn't even a grey one. It was a bright and sunny Sydney day and the streets and parks were awash with people eating, drinking, laughing and walking.
Surveying the scene, you would have no idea the state was grappling with a crippling global pandemic. At least not until you turned on the news to be reminded that Victorians were still masked up and locked down - with awful spikes in mental health problems and self-harm - thanks to grotesque government failure and ideological zeal.
Now I'm no pollster but I would bet Daryl Maguire's legal bill that all of those people would say Gladys has saved Australia's biggest and most at-risk state from unmitigated misery and so she can shag whoever she wants.
Is that squeaky clean? No. Is that technically correct? No. Is that perfectly rational? No.
But is it true? That's a different question altogether.
Joe Hildebrand is the co-host of the politics podcast I'm Usually More Professional and Nights with John Stanley at 8pm Thursdays on 2GB.
Originally published as Real reason Gladys got away with affair