Ad Watch – Confused?

Sunday, 16 September 2007 

This ad shows how much the Liberals’ real situation has come to the surface since Labor’s lousy ‘scratch cards’ Howard/Costello ads of the last election.

Then the international situation still gave the government the appearance of a programme and it was Labor that had to fill the void with Latham’s free-wheeling policy-on-the-run. That meant that Labor could not really touch Howard. Accusing him of lying meant little if he could still be thought of as a ‘conviction politician’. Labor’s 2004 tactic of saying a vote for Howard was a vote for Costello just avoided the problem.

Labor is still policy-lite, although there is some content with its re-shaping of federalism (underpinning its initiatives on hospitals and pokies). But the important difference this time is that it is now the Liberals whose policy vacuum is obvious. This is not so much evident in the doubts about Howard’s leadership but the fact that they can’t replace him. The reality of the dithering is not only brought out in the ad by the stay-go-stay questioning but the look on Costello that suggests, rightly, he is being duped by Howard.

Is this ad really necessary? The media’s bizarre acceptance that this is an electoral tactic, rather than a short-term way to manage party discontent, surely cannot be shared by most of the electorate. Already Howard is having to manage the negative electoral impact from this move in his own seat. The ad’s impact is probably confined to core Liberal supporters who are Howard fans. The problem with a policy vacuum is that there is little to attack, which is why there is little anger at the government in the electorate. Against accepted wisdom, if Labor runs a good campaign this is probably one of the few negative ads it will need to run.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Sunday, 16 September 2007.

Filed under Tactics

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