People: Hell hath no fury like an Australian leader ousted

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The Independent Online
IT'S OUT at last. The memoirs of Australia's lachrymose former leader Bob Hawke hit the book shops today. The country's ruling Labor Party has closed ranks around Paul Keating, the current prime minister, as he prepares for an expected onslaught from the man whom he unseated.

In his memoirs, Mr Hawke does little to conceal his bitterness against Mr Keating, who pushed him from power as Labor leader and prime minister in a party coup almost three years ago. He describes Mr Keating as erratic, vainglorious, arrogant, disloyal and 'contemptuous of everyone on the political stage but himself'. Mr Hawke directs particular scorn at remarks Mr Keating made to journalists in 1990 in which he described himself - somewhat fancifully - as the 'Placido Domingo of Australian politics' and criticised Mr Hawke's leadership.

'I was furious at Keating's perversion of Labor history and contemporary politics,' Mr Hawke writes. 'Keating's remarks were disingenuous, churlish and inaccurate.'

Mr Keating remained silent yesterday on the accusations.

THE author of a new book on the flogging of American teenager Michael Fay has criticised Singapore's practice of caning vandals, describing it as 'state-sponsored torture'.

'The book is very much my bit towards the abolition of this law,' Gopal Bharatam told a news conference to launch The Caning of Michael Fay. What Mr Bharatam has to say may not sound revolutionary, but since he lives and works in Singapore, where the government is neither used to, nor keen on political criticism, his words will create quite a stir.

The book will be competing with another on the subject, written by Asad Latif, a journalist with the Straits Times, a state-controlled newspaper. Mr Latif's book, The Flogging of Singapore: The Michael Fay Affair, shows a different angle on the affair by suggesting that the mini-state ably stood up to pressures from Washington, which disapproved of Fay's caning - one of about 1,000 carried out every year.

GOOD ol' Ollie North, who has been demanding looser gun controls as he campaigns for the US Senate, has hit a personal hitch. He has had his own gun licence revoked by a judge in his home state of Virginia, who reckoned (perhaps remembering Mr North's less than glorious role in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal) that Mr North was 'not of good character'.

Mr North's spokesman, Daniel McLagan, condemned the decision as 'politically motivated'. He complained that the same judge, James Berry of Clarke County, who gave him the permit two years ago, was now revoking it. 'The difference is that this year North is running for the Senate', he said, darkly.

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