Mood swings

Tuesday, 18 September 2007 

It was perfectly proper of Downer to admonish Labor yesterday for its slavish addiction to the polls given the mature response of his side of the fence to last week’s Newspoll shocker.

This week’s poll showing a move back to the government will be a relief across the Liberal leadership – to Howard with less pressure of a challenge and to everyone else with less pressure to have to launch one. Leaving aside internal dynamics, it is hard to see what to draw from the poll for the electoral scene. Even Dennis Shanahan was struggling to explain the rise in coalition support, Matt Price’s suggestion it was the public’s reward for the entertainment of last week’s theatrics seemed as good as any.

Having said that, it is probably a good time to point out a slightly discordant note that has been creeping into Labor’s campaign over the last week. It seems the closer Labor gets to the election the less clear they are on why they are likely to win it. This election is about the crisis in the Liberal party, not the resurgence of Labor, and not as much has changed from 2004 as perhaps Labor likes to think. The international situation is much more favourable this time but Rudd still has to translate it to a convincing domestic agenda. Both parties and their supporters like to comfort themselves that the IR debate has substance but in reality they are facing each other while standing for not very much.

When Rudd proclaims ‘New Leadership’, it is less based on the strength of his own program than the vacuum in the Liberals’ leadership. So what may seem reasonable when the Liberals are in disarray can look rather contrived a few days later when they settle back down. That is why government claims of Labor hubris with the weekend rally in Penrith and Labor indecisiveness with its penchant for committees and inquiries had some resonance yesterday. As neither party can really stand on its own respective platform, the dynamic of their campaigns are left dependent on each other and on the polls, which they breathlessly wait to be published and then don’t know whether to believe when they are.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Tuesday, 18 September 2007.

Filed under Tactics

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