April 10, 2015

Horse 1873 - Australia's Prime Ministers - No 15 - Francis Forde

XV - Franics Forde

There's sort of a strange legend which grew up around the Premiership of Francis "Frank" Forde.
"The only known photograph of Francis Forde as Prime Minister, is of him in military uniform; standing at a railway station."
The reason for this is that you can basically describe his week long premiership in a few sentences.
John Curtain had died in office. Forde was his deputy and took over in a temporary role. The Labor caucus voted for someone else. Game over.
That story whilst being technically correct (the best kind of correct) is a black and white snapshot of a picture full of colour and depth, and was a technicolor mess.

On the other side of the political divide, Menzies had resigned and Fadden as the leader of the minor of the two parties in the coalition, took over the job as Prime Minister. When two independents crossed the floor, Curtin passed a £1 variation budget and stole supply (and with it government) on the floor of the house. The Australian people confirmed their confidence in his government by giving his Labor party a proper majority at the next election.
Curtain though, like any leader of a large political party, had to deal with the internal factions and posturings within his own party. Curtin who was very much a Labor leftist, appointed Forde as his Deputy who was much further to the right. Curtin's premiership came to sudden and abrupt ending though - he died.
It was pretty well much always assumed that Forde would be the next leader of the party but when this was put to a formal vote just eight days later (13th July, 1945), the caucus decided differently.

Forde lost the leadership ballot against Ben Chifley and Norman Makin but would remain on as Deputy Leader of the party until the 1946 election where he lost his own seat. As Minister for Defence after the Second World War had ended, he was held as the principle actor and reason why troops were slow in being demobilised. After being ousted from his seat in Federal Parliament, he returned to the Queensland state parliament after a period as Australian High Commissioner to Canada.

During Curtin's tenure as Prime Minster though, the landscape had changed on the other side of the chamber. Following a meeting with Menzies and a few key UAP members, a conference was organised in Canberra which brought together 18 different rightist political groups including MPs and the IPA and media owner Keith Murdoch. This meeting would mark the end of the UAP and herald its successor, the Liberal Party. The party was formally announced in the Sydney Town Hall on 31st August 1945.

Had Forde remained as Prime Minister, he would have squared off against Menzies in an election race but that day never came. Labor had jotled to the left and thrown him off the cart. Frank Forde was a victim of circumstance and had the winds of political fortune been blowing in a different direction, Forde's story would have been far grander than just an interesting appendix.

No comments: