It was about time we had a fun news day and Tuesday 25 June delivered in spades with the breaking of #knitgate. Finally something of substance to get the country debating: should the Prime Minister have agreed to a photo shoot with knitting needles or not?
It started early with the leak. Our esteemed leader had agreed to an article with the Australian Womens Weekly, no less, sitting in an armchair, with the Ministerial dog, Reuben, at her feet, knitting a toy kangaroo for the baby of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Little did PM Gillard suspect the explosion of media fever which would follow. The AWW claimed the knitting image was the PM’s idea. The PM’s office said the magazine had complete editorial control. Either way, it seems everyone has had an opinion on whether this was yet another salvo in the gender wars, or whether it was simply our nation’s leader, relaxing, in the way she prefers.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Julie Bishop, likened the Prime Minister to Madame Defarge, anti-heroine in Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities. Opposition MP, Christopher Pyne commented that the shoot “…has added to the general carnival atmosphere – the PM is good at “spinning a yarn”. Labour backbencher Graham Perret commented that he didn’t think knitting was a crime. Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt also commented, but why waste space promoting his vitriol?
So here’s the deal.
Our media coverage of things political has sunk so low, so very, very low, that we are going to get excited – possibly even vitriolic – about the head of our nation, sitting in a chair knitting. Yep, it’s come to this.
For a few years now the standard of Australian political reporting has been declining. We started to see too many shots of John Howard heading out for his morning walk, and cheesy shots of Kevin Rudd heading to church on a Sunday morning. To be fair to these former PMs, these were private occasions and the media had no right to pursue them. And it has become a lot worse with every angle of Opposition Leader Tony Abbot’s torso being photographed as he indulges in his action man stunts, be they bike riding, or Sydney surfing. Again, if Mr Abbott is pursuing a private passion, he should be left alone to do so. If it’s a media callout, then I guess we will see what he chooses to display. And similarly with the PM. We have seen pictures of her falling over in India, losing a shoe in Canberra featured time and again, I guess to show us how ‘vulnerable’ she is. So if Ms Gillard decides to participate in a photo shoot with the Australian Women’s Weekly, then it seems it is fair to have an opinion on this.
And opinions aplenty abound, as well as tweets on #knitting songs, including ‘You can’t always knit what you want’ [Andrew Barr [email protected]] and ‘Knit’s all over now baby blue’ [Jenna Price [email protected]]
I have a sneaking admiration for the PM’s domestic skills. The most I have ever managed to knit in my life is a scarf – you know knit one, purl one, straight across, straight down, no dropped stitches or double twirls. So to lead a country and manage to manipulate coloured thread into a credible kangaroo – now that’s really stylish, I believe.
And I have an undisguised respect for this woman who has got up and led the country, day in and day out, for three long years in spite of the rubbish which others have heaped upon her. Australian politics is now about playing the ‘woman’ and not the ball, and our PM has simply and serenely moved forward. As @Kieraxx tweeted, ‘I’d rather vote for a knitter than a knitwit any day’.
And the good news for the PM? I don’t knit, but I do vote.
What do you think? Is #knitgate a storm in a teacup and not worth a comment? Or is this yet another opportunity to slam the PM?