Wednesday, 11 August 2010
The Age says Gillard has gathered momentum over the last few days. Momentum is a strong word. Stabilised would be more accurate. This is an election about two severely destabilised parties trying to prevent their instability coming to the surface over the course of a few weeks.
The Coalition had to grapple with their instability first, led by a leader that had been more about standing up for Coalition ‘values’ than winning an election. So he was unable to deftly handle the Workchoices pantomime because he couldn’t just resist reminding voters that he still thought it was necessary – even if no one else did.
The way the Coalition has resolved it, or at least patched it up, is to go back to the Howard years. Some re-writing is obviously necessary of the last year of Howard’s government, when he was forced to dump most of the positions that Tony Abbott is now so much for. Howard, trying to portray himself as the true conservative, is only too willing to help and let everyone forget about proposing an ETS, watering down Workchoices and suggesting some politically correct re-writing of the Constitution.
However, Abbott still remains the problem. Much has been made of Abbott parading his family as an underhand way of making a point about Gillard’s marital status. But it would be more accurate to see it is as more addressing Abbott’s problems than highlighting Gillard’s. Abbott is the oddball of this election, not Gillard. And it’s not his religious background that’s the problem; it didn’t stop our previous bible-bashing PM from being highly popular. Abbott’s problem is his political, not his religious, fervour. His action man stance was fine for cheering up the Liberals against a Prime Minister who was happy to put everything up for review. But when the question comes to stability, as it has now come down to, it leaves open the question what exactly is he wanting to do If he got in?
While the Coalition’s instability comes from trying to hide a political agenda, Labor’s comes from almost the complete opposite. The vacuum that was exposed by the Rudd dumping has brought the hollowness of what has become a technocratic shell out into the open. Gillard made an attempt to ‘Move Forward’ from it with an agenda designed to distinguish herself from Rudd and ‘key’ into the electorate; cobbled together from the media, Abbott’s agenda, and the insecurities of the ALP right about their declining base. However, after the collapse in Labor’s primary in the second disastrous week of the campaign, distinguishing from Rudd was a luxury that Labor couldn’t afford and like the Coalition, Labor also had to take shelter in something that would provide stability, marked by the emergence of the ‘real’ Julia.
The emergence of the ‘real’ Julia was in reality the opposite, in as much as the agenda that had distinguished Gillard, and justified her takeover, was now dropped. Instead, she ended up campaigning on the same issue that Rudd himself would have been left with – the economy. Adopting the campaign meant allowing the man himself back into the campaign. After a disruptive presidential-style comeback, Rudd seems to have disappeared into the Queensland marginals where he is unlikely to do any good at all, but hopefully for Labor HQ, stay out of the limelight.
Both parties have focussed on the economy, but it is not an economic debate as such. There is no real alternative of economic policy. Rather one is hiding behind the stability of the Howard years three years ago, the other the recession that was avoided last year. Take your pick on the past you prefer. ‘Forward’ looking themes like climate change, Big Australia and even the Broadband network have died a death.
Finally, if there is one other factor that has led to this strange mid-campaign calm of the last few days, it is what happened to the other player in the campaign, the media. For the media, last week brought out something that has been a growing feature of the last few years; how much it is now getting caught up in this mess – a subject of another post.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 11 August 2010.Filed under State of the parties, Tactics