When Julia Gillard released her autobiography in 2014, Kevin Rudd described it as “a work of fiction”.
It is against this benchmark that Rudd’s own memoirs must be judged.
Over the past fortnight, the former Prime Minister has travelled from his new home in New York to blitz the Australian media.
He has been promoting Not For The Faint-Hearted, the first volume of his “personal reflection on life”, taking us up to the night of the 2007 election.
Most of the media interviews have been of the soft, powderpuff variety.
I doubt the journalists involved had actually read the book and its 674 pages of attempted Rudd glorification.
I can assure Daily Telegraph readers the work of fiction is not from Gillard’s tome, but Rudd’s.
It sits in a parallel universe, far, far away, as Kevin (formerly from Queensland) delivers a bitter, delusional rewriting of Labor’s time in opposition during the Howard years.
Rudd claims to have been a fierce opponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, yet I sat in Shadow Cabinet meetings where, as Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson, he told us Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and we shouldn’t be opposed to a US-led ground war.
The only thing he was fierce about was cheering on George W Bush – whom he subsequently saluted in public.
Rudd also claims to have been an enemy of Labor’s factional system.
Yeah, and I’m Father Christmas.
Up until the machine men turned on him and ended his prime ministership in June 2010, no member of Caucus spent as much time sucking up to the factions as Rudd.
The joke inside the party was to monitor his Friday morning ritual, circa 2002-06.
After his appearance on the Seven Sunrise program in Martin Place, Sydney, he would march down the hill to Sussex Street, button-holing any trade union official who would listen to him, expanding at length on his favourite subject: himself.
The punchline was to guess where the faction chiefs had hidden, in order to avoid him: in the toilet, the tea room, even Otto bins.
But perhaps Rudd’s greatest fantasy concerns his impact on party stability.
He sees himself as a soothing, unifying figure, writing in Chapter 25 of how: “I would try as hard as possible to heal (the wounds of division) but some would remain.”
I’ve read some seriously weird and fictional statements in my 40 years in politics, but nothing on this scale.
Rudd was a permanently destabilising, sniping, destructive force against every Labor leader under whom he served: Beazley, Crean, Gillard and me.
No MP leaked more consistently and viciously to the press gallery.
No one spent more time talking to editors and commentators, planting stories and ripping down his rivals.
None of this is mentioned in the book.
Never in parliamentary history have so many journalists received so many leaks which, in memoir-form, never existed.
This is another Rudd paradox.
He writes with bulging pride of the seats he won for Labor in 2007, yet three years later he wrecked it all with his Laurie Oakes leaks, sabotaging Gillard’s election campaign.
History has been rewritten to suit the world according to Kevin.
His long-time friend and Canberra house buddy, Wayne Swan, is recast as a villain – a feckless machine man, even in the years prior to their falling out in 2010.
Rudd depicts Swan as the village idiot of economic management.
Yet, in his rush to slander his newfound enemy, Rudd has also trashed the financial legacy of his own time in office.
How could the Rudd Government have managed the Australian economy effectively if its Treasurer was a first-rate fool?
With so much recasting of history, the book is full of errors.
I counted 29 howlers, involving most aspects of Labor politics – a massive memory fail.
What explains Rudd’s revisionism?
Where did Cyclone Kevin and his egocentric personality come from?
This volume provides the best answer yet.
Rudd opens up about his unhappy, unfeeling relationship with his father, Bert – whom he portrays as a violent, womanising charlatan.
He denounces his dad as savagely as any of his political opponents.
A son can carry no greater emotional burden: the crushing realisation that his father couldn’t and didn’t love him.
A huge vacuum opened up in Rudd’s life.
To compensate, he went into politics expecting, indeed needing to be hero-worshipped.
Anyone who failed to deliver this hagiography was cut off abruptly.
One misstep, one perceived slight, one mistimed witticism was enough to earn his animus.
I found out in Chapter 13 I was in his good books for no more than half-a-day after I first met him over lunch in 1998.
When I cracked a harmless joke at his expense (and mine) later that night at a Brisbane Young Labor event, according to Rudd, he was “ridiculed publicly”, thereby “drawing the future battlelines between Latham and myself.”
I had, in fact, playfully described our marginal seat campaigning for the day as “two Third Way eggheads talking about Tony Blair while dining on the banks of the Brisbane River.”
Rudd wasn’t even at the Young Labor function but, relying on second-hand gossip, it pricked his ego and led unnecessarily to a lifetime grudge.
His memoir chronicles similarly paranoid encounters with Swan, Kim Beazley, Stephen Smith and Gary Gray.
There’s no longer any great mystery to Kevin Rudd.
He’s a sad, frustrated figure still looking for the love his father never gave him.
This article was originally published by The Daily Telegraph.