Reining in the horses

Saturday, 26 May 2007 

After getting the resilience of Rudd’s popularity so wrong, it is not surprising that the media have now if anything been too positive on how the Rudd/Rein episode has played. It is probably a moderate negative. The independent wife shtick may make Rudd look modern but the public never likes politicians moralising on its domestic arrangements as much as the media thinks. The coalition’s sly way of picking up the “appendage” comment was a good move and Rudd was wise to retract it.

It clearly makes Labor’s IR attack look hypocritical and checked its momentum. Although in the longer term this is a good thing. As said earlier here and here, the attack on Workchoices is largely for internal consumption. In reality there is little difference in principle between Labor and the government on IR, but by taking the issue out into the broader electorate, Labor was giving the impression there was. Individual contracts are certainly not a problem for Therese Rein and neither indeed for Julia Gillard as she deals with the mining sector. Reading between the lines, Rudd now seems to be talking up the ‘embarrassment’ of this episode as an excuse for toning down the campaign.

There are similarities here to the Hefferman episode for the coalition. The ‘barren’ comments were seen as embarrassing for the coalition and took the steam out of their IR attack but actually let Howard off the hook. By making it as though Labor’s proposals were so different that they were intolerable to business, Howard left himself open to the inevitable press conference with business and a Labor party they can certainly work with.

With two demoralised parties battling each other, the spilling out of internal debates is likely to be a constant danger to their electoral chances. For Labor more so, due to the greater influence of politically dumb ideologues.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Saturday, 26 May 2007.

Filed under Tactics

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