At first this blog hated this ad. It was annoying, a bit smart-arse and there was a slight undertone of making Rudd seem like a lightweight, which with coalition ads suggesting that Rudd couldn’t stand up to the unions, did not seem like a good idea.

There was also the question of its treatment of Howard. There has been a constant mis-handling of Howard by his opponents over the last decade. Commentators like to say that people have made the mistake of under-estimating Howard. They have not, in fact he has been over-estimated, he really is a political lightweight. What his critics have under-estimated is their own lack of alternative. It was always easier for the left to make Howard into a right-wing demon than question their own political bankruptcy. The IR debate is that tactic’s last fling, for internal reasons it is easier talking about what Howard has done with Workchoices than the fact that Labor is never going back to collective bargaining and representing the unions. The help these Howard-haters have given Howard to pretend to be a conviction politician was acknowledged by the man himself when he opened his last campaign with a call to love or loathe him, but not treat him like the fraud he is. It is why the more respectful Labor ads portraying former Howard voters, like this latest version seemed more effective.

Howard the conviction politician may have been an illusion but it had some reality against his opponents who stood for nothing. As a result, treating Howard like a joke didn’t work while he could still ride the vacuum both in his own party and on the benches opposite. But things have been starting to change. This year has seen the myths of the Howard era one by one exposed, the sham Costello challenge, the War on Terror fiasco, his grip on the Howard battlers, the power of the hip-pocket nerve and finally the very centre of Howard’s vacuum, the myth of his economic management. Labor assumes in this ad that it is time to stop being defensive and neutralising coalition attacks and start to focus on their differences to Howard (some real, some less so). Most importantly, they now seem to think it is finally time to treat Howard like a bit of a joke. They may be right after all.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Saturday, 17 November 2007.

Filed under Tactics

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