A chance to break the rules

Saturday, 20 October 2007 

This election comes at a time when Australian politics is realigning. Already this year, many of the assumptions that have underpinned politics for a long time, at least during the Howard years, have been undermined. The start of the election campaign ritual has given the appearance that we are back on old ground, but it may not last.

The source of that realignment has been the end of the old roles of the major parties. That has been evident in Labor for a while, but the difference this election is that it is now coming out with the Liberals. Labor meanwhile, has made some headway in changing itself and the Rudd/Gillard leadership has taken that further this year. Where that change appears to be going is to identify Labor more with the apparatus of government and provision of services (like the state governments) rather than represent any particular section of society. This change, which lies behind Rudd’s anti-politics strategy, attacks the whole way that politics is normally conducted and it is probably what has caused Howard most trouble this year.

Howard is in danger of running into trouble with it again tomorrow. His main task in tomorrow’s debate will be to rally his own side and improve party morale battered by a year of terrible polling. He may take the approach he has this week, attacking Labor on the unions and economic management and pushing the strength of the economy through tax cuts. In doing so, however, he makes himself vulnerable to Rudd’s anti-politics. Already Labor’s willingness to replay the Libs’ attack ads shows that they are more comfortable in opposing the government’s right to run attack ads than anything the government may say in them and Rudd will play up Howard’s negativity. If Howard accuses Labor on me-tooism on tax cuts, Rudd will again argue against the need of old politics opposing for opposition’s sake.

In short, Howard can do little than repeat the tactics of the year that have borne little success. It will be interesting to see whether Rudd also does what he has been doing all year, breaking the rules and showing that a new game is now being played. The worm, that anti-politics sign of how lowly politicians are regarded that the public can now continually talk over them, will be monitoring it all.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Saturday, 20 October 2007.

Filed under Tactics

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