Saturday, July 31, 2010

Colonel Cargill & Steven Bradbury

Kevin Rudd was dumped as Prime Minister a month or so ago due to bad polls.

You can ignore everything that's been said about it since. That the Government had lost it's way, that the machine men that run the ALP wanted one of their own in charge, that Kevin ran a dysfunctional government and treated his cabinet with disdain and was erratic and moody and a aloof and pretty hard to deal with when he didn't get the right sort of food. All tosh. While the above may have been factors, these elements had existed in a greater or lesser extent since Rudd assumed the Labor leadership in 2007. He was always a thin lipped, bloodless little freak and he didn't suddenly become erratic and egotistical and devoid of substantial policy a few months ago.

No, all these elements were ignored, or at least tolerated, while the ALP was miles ahead in the polling and Rudd himself had personal approval ratings not seen since Hawke. The party began to turn against Rudd as soon as those polls started to turn against him. A few months of bad polling and the man himself was gone, at least from The Lodge, although not from the scene or the campaign (how ever fervently Julia Gillard may be wishing for the earth to swallow him whole).

So it must give pause for thought to our new PM, and the her senior Labor colleagues, to have a look at the Neilsen poll figures released yesterday and see they are almost in as bad a position as when they booted Rudd out. This, most recent poll, shows the Coalition edging Labor 52 - 48% in the two party preferred stakes. Much more worrying for Labor, however, is the massive lead the same poll shows in the primary votes, which has the Coalition ahead 45 - 36%. If this sort of result were repated at the election, Labor would be buried in a landslide, with a host of marginal seats swept away, not just in Queensland and WA but everywhere.

So actually, forget what I said two sentences ago.

The Labor Party are in a worse position now then before they booted Rudd out. At that time, a few weeks and several political lifetimes ago, they were in exactly the same position in the two party preferred stakes and were behind the Coalition on primary votes 42 - 33%. Statistically the same margin but with a lower vote for themselves, but at that time they had Rudd as leader and not on the loose somewhere in Queensland, doing his best Mick Taylor impersonation (the rest of the Federal ALP are an annoying British backpacker in this analogy). Before Rudd was deposed, Labor could do their rally-behind-the-leader thing come election time and make it reasonably convincing, which is always worth some votes. A united front. Solid, dependable leadership. The punters like that sort of thing. But now... well, the bulk of the Labor party has retired to a back alley somewhere in Canberra to settle things in the style of the rival news crews from 'Anchorman,' leaving Julia to lurch around the country, trying to ignore the scuffling behind her and say that she's for 'Jobs, education and a strong economy,' with a straight face.

Which will make another bit of Neilsen polling potentially even more disastrous. This one is, on the surface at least, good news for the government, in that it shows Julia edging Tony in the preferred PM stakes 49 - 41%. But the bad news lies in the fact that just two weeks ago, at the start of the campaign, she was shading Abbott in this measure by more than twenty points. In other words, in two weeks of campaigning under her leadership, she's reversed the ALP's standing in the overall polls and put them behind and more than halved her lead over her direct opponent in terms of who is better suited to running the country.

Is she Julia Gillard, Prime Minister, or Colonel Cargill from 'Catch 22'?:

Colonel Cargill was so awful a marketing executive that his services were much sought after by firms eager to establish losses for tax purposes. Colonel Cargill could be relied upon to run the most prosperous enterprise into the ground. He was a self made man who owed his lack of success to nobody.

Which is probably a bit rough on her, but it's hard to know what the ALP were thinking over this initial period of campaigning. It appears to have been something like:

'Let's get rid of that bloodless, thin lipped little freak from Queensland that none of us have ever liked and replace him with someone a bit more down to earth and human that the punters in the marginals can relate to... and then when the election rolls around let's drain all the life out of her campaign and have her chant inane slogans and do our level best to make her impersonate that bloody bugger from Queensland again.'

Either the Federal Labor Party is suffering from an acute case of schizophrenia or they have a very warped sense of humour.

Which leaves us with the opposition leader, 'Action Man' Tony Abbott, who would appear to be on his way to living in The Lodge and can probably hardly believe his luck.

This time last year he was stuck in a dead end minor portfolio in Opposition, the moderates under Malcolm Turnbull seemingly having taken over his Liberal Party and closed the door on Howard acolytes like him forever. Rudd was still riding high in the polls at this time and the 2010 election seemed to be heading towards a deadly dull Turnbull-Rudd battle over which one of them would bore the fewest of us to death with their minimalist carbon reduction plans.

Fast forward to... well, now, and Abbott finds himself hustling around the country, getting surprisingly positive press while his opponents pour gasoline all over themselves and set themselves on fire. And let's not forget those polls. Even facing such lacklustre opponents as Kim 'The Bomber' Beazley and Simon 'Please Make Him Stop Talking' Crean, John Howard never enjoyed a nine point primary vote lead in any polls I remember. And this was a man who won four consecutive elections and enjoyed almost God like status in his party.

And so, after all the synonyms, metaphors and analogies I've employed in this piece to describe how Labor are fucking themselves up and ruining their re-election chances, the metaphor that best describes how Abbott is going at this time could well be this one:

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