AUSTRALIA: Fall of the Larrikin

John Grey Gorton is what Australians call a larrikin—a rough-hewn fellow who often embarrasses his colleagues. Elected Prime Minister in 1968 after the drowning of Harold Holt, Gorton rarely consulted Cabinet colleagues and totally ignored backbenchers from his Liberal Party (which, despite the name, is markedly conservative). When he proposed legislation last year to take away the states' powers over off-shore mining, his party colleagues refused to support him, and he was forced to make a humiliating retreat. Gorton's personal style was, to say the least, indiscreet. He once arrived late at a U.S. embassy party with a 19-year-old...

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