Jun 16

There are moments in time when the coming together of two individuals has altered the course of human history. Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

To that list you can now add John Howard and Humphrey B Bear.

This is quite a remarkable photo. It demonstrates that when it comes to being a man of the people, of having that rare ability to endear oneself to a nation both collectively and individually, there is nobody quite like Humphrey B Bear.

It goes without saying that it was the young, fresh-faced John Howard who requested this historic meeting. Indeed, Humphrey had been riding a wave of fame and success for almost a decade when Liberal wunderkind John Howard was first elected to federal parliament in 1974.

For Howard this meeting was an opportunity to pick Humphrey’s political brain. One can only guess the questions that Howard may have asked during his brief audience. Humphrey, how did you develop such a thick skin? Humphrey, how can I become as mute as you on sensitive political issues? Humphrey, where did you get that tie?

Humphrey has seen pollies like Howard come and go. When Humphrey came to power Menzies was in the Lodge! When Malcolm Fraser was caught without his trousers it nearly destroyed his career. Humphrey hasn’t worn pants in almost four decades and is still going strong. Humphrey even survived the rumours that it was he who orchestrated the sacking of Fat Cat by the Governor-General in 1987. Humphrey has that rarest of rare qualities: staying power.

The facts stand for themselves; Humphrey’s sheer longevity is unmatched by any politician. He discovered early on that the secret to gaining true power in this country is to stay in the background, say nothing, and to duck when the cream pies get tossed.

Humphrey was once asked during an interview why he never made a bid for the top job, Prime Minister. He paused for a moment before raising his hands to eye level, fingers splayed, palms down. Then he twiddled his fingers slowly and grinned. His answer was clear: why be the puppet when you can be the one pulling the strings?

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