Monday, 21 June 2010
Key Labor MPs are prepared to move against Kevin Rudd’s leadership to make way for Julia Gillard as early as next week.
Dennis Shanahan 19 June 2010
Hang on a second. What happened between Saturday and three days before, when Shanahan was writing this about Rudd?
Kevin Rudd’s leadership is under threat, but it is not subject to a challenge. … For all of this anxiety, there is no leadership challenge under way, in any form.
Nothing much, but that another Newspoll was approaching and it was time to crank up the excitement because, as The Australian constantly reminds us, it is the most important on the political landscape. Peter van Onselen building up the tension in the same newspaper tells us:
Newspoll continues to dominate people’s minds in terms of how both the parties and the party leaders are faring.
Yet the odd thing is that for the last fortnight it hasn’t. The last two weeks have been focussed not on Newspoll, which was showing the government slightly clawing back its lead to a winning position. All attention, including that of The Australian, has been focussed on the only poll out there still showing the government behind, the last AC Nielsen poll.
As it turned out the latest Newspoll has been a bit of fizzer, just a further slight edging up of the government’s polling, taking it now to where it was at the last election. There were no interesting questions, as hinted by Van Onselen, other than an inconclusive one on standard of living (especially surprising that no poll on Gillard v Rudd was given. Why ever not?). Eerily enough, given the drama of the last few weeks, the poll confirms that on 2PP, and despite the recent decline, this government approaches an election six months out in probably the most comfortable position in a generation.
Yet it doesn’t feel like that. It might be easy to dismiss the media’s beating up of one bad poll as simply making up a drama and, in The Australian’s case, a feeble attempt to influence the political process and change the leadership. However, there are some clear signs that the media is feeding off an insecurity that has a basis in reality.
One unsettling sign has been the dramatic collapse in Rudd’s polling. Such collapses have occurred to opposition leaders, but less so with Prime Ministers because usually they gain power as being part of something and it takes time for whatever that is to unwind.
Rudd partly came to power on international developments but a political strategy more than anything else. So when that international agenda fades and he makes some false steps on the political strategy, down he goes. It is probably not so much that there is a clear active dislike of Rudd, such as there was with Keating, say. It is more likely that with the international basis for his moral challenge gone, and having thrown away much of anti-political attack against his opponents, he appears adrift and out of control of events. It is why criticisms of the government stimulus programs began to stick. It is by taking on the miners that Rudd looks to be trying to appear to be a conviction politician once again.
It is not surprising that the media are having trouble with Rudd’s decline given that they never understood why he did so well in the first place. They can’t seem to decide whether it’s an issue (ETS flip-flop, the insulation program, asylum seekers, the mining tax?) or Rudd himself and his style. Irregardless, Gillard seems the solution even though there is nothing on the issues that she would differ from Rudd. Andrew Bolt on the Andrew Bolt Show thinks she would be more inclusive (such as she was with the teachers’ unions?) but what he really means is that a shaken Labor government would be humbled.
Yet while media speculation makes this seem all about nothing, there are the tangible signs as well. Penrith on the weekend shows that Labor’s base is melting away, and with it the base of Labor’s most powerful political machine. It is not even that transport and infrastructure are really the issue (when were they ever any good in Sydney’s western suburbs?) and that anyone thinks the Liberals will be any better. Rather that when any dissatisfaction is shown, there is simply nothing to keep traditional voters of either party tied down.
But, as Labor’s base melts away, so does its program. One of the many benefits of our anti-racial times is that the crap that is visited on indigenous communities will surely be visited on the rest of us as well. Part of the ground that was broken after an unsubstantiated child abuse scare in the Northern Territory was the ending of the right of indigenous parents to receive welfare on the basis that they might best know what to do with it. This new frontier excited Abbott so much that they he overcame his natural boredom with his indigenous portfolio and came back with the conclusion that it also ought to be applied to non-indigenous households.
Unfortunately, he has been beaten to the chase with the government outlining such an intrusion into non-indigenous households. Readers will no doubt be aware that this marks an historic change from the social democratic model that said that the system is the problem, to the new social democratic model that says you might be the problem as well. Paul Kelly thinks this ‘big news’ has been obscured by all the hoo-hah going on in Canberra this week. Little does he realise how intimately they are related.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 21 June 2010.Filed under State of the parties