Monday, 1 March 2010
If the normal rules of the game applied, Rudd’s confessional moment on Insiders would have been a foolish move. Certainly much of the press find it incomprehensible, while the Murdoch press, rather pathetically, found it a vindication of their anti-government campaign. But in normal political times, to admit that things have been stuffed up, would be seen as dangerously conceding political ground.
But what political ground? The editorial in The Australian summed up the media’s problem. In crowing over Rudd’s admission of his policy failings, nowhere does it really say what they are. To read the editorial, it seems to be only a problem of process and that he has taken on too much at once. There is no real problem with what the government is doing, just the way it is doing it.
The lack of substance to the current criticism of the government was summed up by the installation fiasco itself. There was little complaint about the actual program, rather the way it was implemented. Even the opposition, who had complained about the program being a waste of money, by the end were complaining about the consequences of the program ending and all the jobs lost that they didn’t think should have been created in the first place.
It’s no surprise that a self absorbed media might think that Rudd’s confessional mood is all about them. In reality it is the lack of substance behind current criticisms of the government, from even its harshest media critics, that gives Rudd room to concede ground on process without actually giving that much away. However, it is also that lack of political agenda from either the government, or its critics, that makes it vulnerable to the electorate at large and it is that which Rudd was addressing.
Rudd was reluctant to dump Garrett, not only to give ground to Abbott, but also internal critics not happy seeing traditional ALP power bases being over-ridden by a celeb such as Garrett. The result, however, was to make the government look stubborn for no major principle, made it look unresponsive and out of touch more broadly in the electorate – something that Abbott’s anti-political tactics were willing to exploit. Rudd’s taking of responsibility for the insulation fiasco, much like his Friday spot on Sunrise are meant to counter this sentiment of being out of touch, and prevent Abbott doing to him what he did to Howard in the last election.
There is a danger with the strategy, that came out in the first part of the Insiders interview, where Rudd can end up appearing like someone buffeted around by events. It is what is touched on when commentators claim that Rudd can end up like a ‘national Premier’ and a mere service provider who can never satisfy. Towards the end of the interview, however, Rudd started to brighten up as he took up the cause that he had let drift since Copenhagen, but which gives the government the moral purpose it desperately needs, the ETS. If the government succeeded in recovering its high ground on this, then it could turn attention on the biggest block to process, the opposition. Without it, Rudd will be as insecure as any of the other Premiers heading towards re-election this year.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 1 March 2010.Filed under Tactics