In the early days of the "Iguanagate scandal", I remember hearing from a Labor party insider that "John Della Bosca is actually a lovely man. It's her [Belinda Neal] who's the bully; she's the awful one".
It may be true. Watching Australian Story last night really didn't make up my mind one way or the other. Or it may just be the latest example of Adam and Eve syndrome - that there's a bad woman behind the downfall of every good man.
There's a certain type of man who is threatened by the powerful woman. Woman was responsible for orignial sin, and therefore, for all the corruption in the Universe. Throughout history, we have couples where the female partner is blamed for the downfall of the man - Samson and Delilah, Caesar and Cleopatra, Nicholas and Alexandra, Hillary and Bill. (Who can forget those hilarious 90s bumper stickers "IMPEACH THE PRESIDENT - AND HER HUSBAND TOO!").
Now there's John and Belinda. Does anyone really believe that the media would have made so much fuss over Ms Neal's behaviour if she'd been a male politician doing the same thing? Mark Latham was after all able to become Federal Opposition leader after breaking a taxi driver's arm. But the tough woman is threatening. Women are still expected to be demure, caring, "feminine" (Tim Ferguson was heard to opine that if Neal was sacked, "it would increase the proportion of women in Federal parliament".
For now the men have, apparently, won the day. Della Bosca remains in the NSW cabinet; Neal is unlikely to retain preselection for her seat. But after thousands of years, we really haven't come as far as we would have liked to have thought.