Crean finds out its too late.

Crean finds out its too late.

Sales: is today’s outcome what you had in mind?

Crean: No, but it’s an outcome. I said that what I wanted was a circuit-breaker, it’s not the circuit breaker … I thought, but it is a circuit breaker.

Crean on 730

Welcome to party reform. Over the last couple of years, Labor’s problems have spawned a raft of contributions on how it can be reformed, the latest being Latham’s in the Quarterly Essay (review coming). They are thoughtful, considered pieces, chock full of insightful advice how Labor can reconnect to the electorate and revive itself. However, the problem they all share is that they assume the process is under Labor’s control. Yesterday showed that it is not.

There was a lot that happened in yesterday’s first ever spill without a challenger that didn’t make sense. But what was especially odd was the event that kicked it off, Crean’s press conference calling for a spill.

For someone who was recommending that Labor dump its current leader for Rudd, it was hardly an endorsement. Indeed while Crean said that he would be voting for him, he seemed to be determined to discourage anyone else from doing so.

Crean had nothing positive to say about Rudd. He even refused under questioning to say that Rudd was more likely than Gillard to win an election. Indeed, the main takeaway from Crean’s press conference was that Rudd’s destabilisation was undermining the government and the cause of its unpopularity, something hardly likely to win him votes in Caucus. Given such an “endorsement”, perhaps that might account for Crean’s odd inability to bring across the handful of “Creanites” that he is supposed to lead in the Victorian right to also support Rudd. Stranger still, Crean wouldn’t even say whether he thought Rudd would win the ballot.

However, the most peculiar feature of Crean’s statement, for which he disappointingly was not questioned later on 730 was why he wanted to put himself forward as deputy (a bid later withdrawn). Crean and Rudd could hardly be thought of as a team. Crean has spent much of the last couple of years trashing Rudd and his lack of “discipline” and there appeared no change to this view yesterday. Indeed it seemed that it was Rudd’s lack of discipline was why Crean wanted to be his deputy. But it was clarified in this revealing exchange:

Crean: It was important in arriving at this decision that I was convinced him to be what I’ve referred to on other occasions as a changed Kevin. Or if you like, a more disciplined asset. Now I’m satisfied with the response that I’ve had, but I believe that it’s important that he continues to be held to it, that’s why I’ve put my name forward for the deputy position. I hope that’s a view that the party shares.

Journalist: to put a check on him?

Crean: No I don’t say to put a check on him, I say to use the authority of the office of the leadership group, to actually get better balance into decision-making as we go forward. Now anyone who knows me knows that while I might have strong views, I’m also an inclusive person, so I don’t say this is another narrow group. The criticism of his government was that it was too concentrated. I want it to become more inclusive. I think from this position I can guarantee that.

This gets to the nub of the issue, and clarifies all this guff about Rudd being “impossible to work with” etc. etc. The real issue is that behind the Gillard-Rudd tussle is an institutional one on how the party is run. Backing Gillard are the party power brokers, while Rudd is using his electoral popularity to challenge it. Since such a challenge is only possible because the institutions the power brokers represent have lost their social base, inevitably there is nothing for Rudd to replace the power brokers with than himself and the coterie around him.

At one level, Crean was doing what he did in February last year, drawing Rudd out to challenge before numbers had built to take him over the line. But if Rudd did succeed, then Crean was there as deputy to put a check on Rudd to ensure that the party’s traditional power brokers did not totally lose control. On the other hand, Crean’s call for Labor to go back to its Hawke-Keating roots was also targeted at a Parliamentary leadership increasingly reliant on union backers for survival.

Crean was trying to find a compromise between a party power structure that has lost its relevance and a challenger whose popularity rests on not being part of it. It failed because things have gone past the point where a compromise is possible. All that happened yesterday is to polarise it even more with Rudd backers now deserting or being pushed from their government posts and leaving Crean no longer the Minister of whatever it was.

Commentators were falling over each other to say that Rudd was finished, lacked bottle etc. etc. – but then they said that after the last spill. Rudd was supposed to be fatally damaged after being excoriated by the cabinet, but remains if anything as popular as ever. Suggesting that Rudd might have lost credibility for not taking the wonderful gift of the Labor leadership right now implies that Labor is more popular than Rudd. Labor’s dilemma is that this is increasingly not the case.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Friday, 22 March 2013.

Filed under Tactics

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24 responses to “No solution without revolution – an update”

  1. Bill on 22nd March 2013 8:58 am

    Yes, it certainly does appear that Crean made himself the ‘sacrificial lamb’ to ‘smoke out’ Rudd/ nip the whole thing ‘in the bud’ that was gaining momentum/ well publicised that this was (underline) to be a big weekend towards a possible Rudd comeback. Looks like they succeeded/ not giving waivering ‘nervous nellies’ sufficient time to get unreservedly behind him.

    Commentators were saying Rudd HAD to now stand, and I’m thinking .. ‘what ? ‘ / ‘why ?’ They were saying ‘3 strikes and your out’ / this would be his last chance … so logically I’m thinking (presumably he too) .. events/ this timing is not of my choosing .. I think I’ll just sit this one out/ they can **** themselves !

    Interestingly/disappointingly, NO one talked about what the future would be for Gillard/ Swan, if Rudd WAS actually to stand and win.
    I wonder if Gillard would have moved to the back bench … or would Rudd have found a spot for her, eg education minister ? Even with either outcome, it would probably look to be a very toxic situation to most observers.

    It would not surprise me at all for Rudd to quit politics after the upcoming election. I still expect things to tighten considerably as it dawns on voters that they’d actually be putting ABBOTT in (aagh !) … that jerk failed 3 times when asked by Peter Overton on whether he expected to see Rudd win, (simple question !) .. yet how many times does he in question time say .. ‘the question was simple enough / yes or no ? ‘ (Hypocrite !). He came across as a slimy politician who can’t communicate directly with the public on the simplest question.

    We certainly don’t need someone of his ‘calibre’ / a guy dodging serious grillings, just waiting for another labor stuff up to fall into the top job and then apply the razor to everything.

    I wouldn’t quite write off Gillard yet though. She does generally seem to have Abbotts number in parliament / I reckon she’ll make mincemeat of him in any open debates. At least she’s not afraid to front up to public debates/ Q&A etc (thinks on her feet well). Perhaps she will yet turn out to be Australia’s ‘Iron Lady’ (didn’t Thatcher start off with poor polling ? ).. that’s what her supporters must be desperately hoping.

  2. Avalon Dave on 22nd March 2013 9:13 am

    It looks like I predicted Rudd’s strategy in the comments on the original “No Solution Without Revolution” post.

    The destabilising is not going to stop – far from it. Rudd’s seat is very safe, but a lot of others are going to be wiped out – particularly in Western Sydney & Queensland.

    These factional power brokers derive their power primarily, from the ability to hand out preselections for safe seats. If there are no safe seats on offer, then presumably these guys can’t put their loyal duds into parliament.

    Rudd has taken on the Factions two times and lost. He refused to take them on again yesterday.

    Rudd will be doing his best to see a thumping loss, and see the electorate do the damage on the factional power bases, that he himself never could.

    The fact that old chums like Wayne Swan will be out on their ear, is just a bit of icing on the cake.

  3. F on 22nd March 2013 9:27 am

    Spot on shrike. The Labor party is now a death cult, with Julia Gillard as its high priestess, leading all the faithful into a volcano.
    The backers and supporters behind Gillard are now talking about “honourable defeat” as if being chucked into opposition for being a bunch of self-obsessed power hungry morons is honourable!
    They seem to think that maybe with just a Victorian rump left the party can get back to what it does best, whatever that is. I’m assuming it means fighting over the “spoils” of opposition. What a bunch of losers.
    Poll after poll has shown that Australian’s don’t like Gillard and her leadership team, aren’t listening to them, and won’t be voting Labor. Their tin-ears are unfathomable.
    I was actually hoping for a snap early election, just to end this psycho-drama. Talk about a case of political blue-balls!

  4. Avalon Dave on 22nd March 2013 10:15 am

    I just re-read “The Dead Hand of the Party Rises” written back in June 2010.

    Given the recent information that came to light regarding polls withheld from Caucus that showed Kevin on the improve, it’s scary how on the money you were back then Shrike.

  5. Boris Kelly on 22nd March 2013 12:44 pm

    The legislative and reform record will show Gillard is the best Labour leader since Whitlam. That she is a woman and has to deal with a hung parliament further demonstrates her personal resilience and strength.

    I cannot recall a politician so universally reviled by the media and the marginal commentariat for no good reason. She is strong, intelligent and capable but, like all members of the ALP, she is lumbered with an ailing political machine desperately in need of reform.

    To characterise Rudd as some kind of white knight leading the charge against the factions is fanciful. Rudd is a self-interested show pony who will probably retire after the election to take on some foreign posting where he belongs.

    Even if Labour loses the election – I am not a Labour voter – I relish the fight Gillard will take up to Abbott, who is, in essence, a weak, opportunistic man. She is without doubt the most capable person in the parliamentary party to prosecute the Labour case. That she has been white-anted by the Ruddites and chancers, pursued by media hacks and armchair experts, insulted from the public gallery and called a “moll”, villified by Jones and Hadley and the mad rabble, only increases my admiration for her qualities as a leader.

    But she has one fundamental flaw: she is so focused on policy and outcomes that she doesn’t do the politics well. She relies too much on poor advice and she needs to take control of her political strategy and communications. She needs to be direct and engaged with the public and, yes, she probably has some Thatcher in her but only in strength of character not ideology.

    So I’d like to see the rabid dogs shied off Gillard – a job Fitzgibbon should have done – and have a few people with guts stand up and back her against the cowards and no-hopers in her own party, the dupes and lackeys in the media and in the feral depths of the general public amongst whom Abbott feels so at home.

  6. Bill on 22nd March 2013 2:54 pm

    I’m not too sure it will be a good look when the next ‘question time’ commences .. so many fresh faces on the front bench with just around 6 months (maybe) to go.

    What with Bowen and Ferguson having resigned in the past few hours (who’s next? / they’re falling like nine-pins !) Abbott might well do a double-take, wondering if he’s in the right building!

  7. The Piping Shrike on 22nd March 2013 3:48 pm

    To say the very least. This looks like war to me.

    Avalon Dave, it is spooky!

  8. Chris Grealy on 22nd March 2013 6:59 pm

    At first I wondered if Crean had been set up, but he’s been around long enough to see that coming, surely? Now I’m leaning towards the view that the beginnings of senility have set in, which is a great shame, but something that comes to us all.

  9. David brant on 22nd March 2013 11:58 pm

    Crean fell on his sword for the Party < old fashioned, designed to force Rudds hand, and pointless.
    Most commentators think its over until after the election
    I am not so sure.
    Rudd was not flushed , neither was he exposed.
    His populist support remains; the flush is an artificial capital hill artifice meaningless outside of the party room. Unfortunately perhaps, he has one more throw of the dice.
    Rudd is now removing all his supporters from their key or no longer so key positions in the parliamentary party to sit on back bench. Where they will gather the few wavering backbenchers, many fearful hacks, to their cause. Nothing else is left for tgese other than a return to the jobs they held a decade + ago.
    Once more into the breach but to what long term purpose?
    Non party member/ informal voter2013

  10. Chris Grealy on 23rd March 2013 7:43 am

    Update – Now Crean is complaining publicly that he was in fact set up by un-named Rudd supporters. OK then Simon, you fell for it. Not very bright, but you’re not the first. Now it’s time to zip the lips and get back to supporting the party. Rudd won’t be pushed into doing anything stupid, time to emulate him.

  11. F on 23rd March 2013 7:56 am

    Well done David Brant for seeing what every single one of the Press Gallery cannot. My god, how did those incompetent fools get their jobs?

    If we are going to get palace intrigue as political news at least get it right.

  12. Avalon Dave on 23rd March 2013 8:47 am

    @Boris – I’m not trying to portray Rudd as a white knight. In fact I think he is a narcissistic and nasty piece of work, who would burn the fields rather than have those that knifed him succeed. I’m just trying to guess his strategy. I also think Gillard is a policy giant. Her problem is singular. Her team couldn’t Sell fish on Good Friday.

    As for Crean, he was up to his neck in it and he saw an opportunity for himself. In Rugby parlance, he charged out of the defensive line to take the intercept and score. It just happens that you end up looking silly when that fails.

    Of course Rudd and Hawker were talking to him. But I think Crean definitely went solo in an attempt to get the Deputy job ahead of Albanese. The other team went through the gap he left in the defensive line.

  13. Austin 3:16 on 23rd March 2013 9:12 am

    Oh yeah Gillard is a master of policy – just look at the “lets dump the ETS, then promise no carbon tax then deliver a carbon tax” for a complete mastery of climate change policy.

    Her East Timor, no wait PNG, nope lets try Malaysia, oh gosh darnit Naru then was brilliant asylum seeker policy

    The re-jigged mining tax – another policy master-stroke.

    I’m amazed at the myth of the “Competent Gillard” as opposition health shadow she was a dud who made Tony Abbott look like a competent health minister. “Medicare Gold” anyone? When Nicola Roxon took over as shadow health the change was apparent, she managed to constantly expose Abbott’s weaknesses.

    As Education Minister she turned what should have been a cornerstone of the Rudd Government (the schools building program) into a millstone of waste and inefficiency.

    It’s no wonder Abott now leads some polls as preferred PM.

    That seems to be her only political gift – and it is an amazing one – she can make Abbott seem elect-able.

    Nice to see some clinging to the hope that the electorate will recognise Abbott for what he is, just like the 1996 myth that the Australian public would never make “Little Johnny” Prime Minister.

  14. The Piping Shrike on 23rd March 2013 9:50 am

    On the role of Crean and Rudd I think it’s as it is coming out. The Rudd camp would have wanted later but Crean did his thing and they watched to see if he brought some over. But he brought no one over as it wasn’t really an endorsement but a way of managing the Rudd “problem”.

    That’s why Crean was saying afterwards that he should have run even if he lost. Ultimately Crean wanted Rudd dealt with, by either discrediting him with a defeat, or if he did win, being under the control of the “leadership group”.

  15. Austin 3:16 on 23rd March 2013 11:07 am

    Hey Shrike

    The allegations of an text from Rudd to Crean trying to put the brakes on the spill are an interesting development though.

  16. Roger on 23rd March 2013 1:57 pm

    The battle is not personal but ‘structural’ and ‘historical’. Which is why it won’t go away any time soon, even if the personalities change over the next decade (or however long it takes to get sorted). The Labor Party has an honorable union history. It was, and still is, the ‘Union Party’. It is not a social democratic party – because it is not democratic. The reformists (Faulkner & co) recently gave democratic reform as strong a push as they could muster. Nothing happened. Those in control aren’t going to voluntarily give up control just because that would be a good idea. Will a massive defeat or two change their minds? I really don’t think so. Evidence is not their strong suit, unless they’re manufacturing it.

  17. Blow Up The Focus Groups on 23rd March 2013 4:30 pm

    Rudd should make good use of the autumn break: spend it forming his own political party. A moderate, progressive, social democratic party (three schools of thought which Gillard has explicitly disowned, so why not?) in which there are no formal affiliations with unions or any other lobby groups, candidates for Parliament are selected through primaries, overt factional groupings are banned with caucus choosing the ministry via a totally secret ballot, and the leader is chosen by anyone who holds party membership. He could sell it as “the party that the ALP used to be, but sadly is clearly incapable of ever being again”. The main policy platform could consist of things such as an Emissions Trading Scheme of the sort proposed in 2007, the Resources Super Profit Tax, a return to onshore processing of asylum seekers, genuine pokies reform, and possibly same-sex marriage. Disillusioned Laborites like Faulkner may well follow him into this new party, and it could be potentially be a catalyst for Tanner and/or McKew to run for Parliament again, which would lend the exercise more credibility. I know that the hundred-year-old institutional inertia propping up the big two parties is difficult to overcome, but surely the current national mood is such that a party as I have suggested could at the very least perform quite decently at the election?

  18. Thomas Paine on 23rd March 2013 5:40 pm

    Indeed Rudd creating a political party to occupy the ground Gillard Labor has decided to vacate would be welcome.

    There needs to be something to drag back the national narrative back from the right where Gillard and Abbott are now sitting.

    This little exercise will do no good for the public’s trust and belief in Gillard Labor, and most likely will bury them deeper.

    How it affects Rudd will depend on how the public perceived latest events and how they were presented to them in the media. He might take a hit, but will still be head and shoulders of a now terminal Gillard.

    The net result will be the public abandoning what must seem a dishonest and untrustworthy Labor more interested in trying to assasinate one of its own in internal power plays.

    The public I imagine will return to something they remember as safe and stable and competent for a long while….the Coalition.

  19. The Piping Shrike on 23rd March 2013 5:48 pm

    I think setting up a new political party is the last thing on anyone’s mind now that the internal war in Labor is coming up to the surface.

  20. Roger on 24th March 2013 2:05 pm

    “I think setting up a new political party is the last thing on anyone’s mind now that the internal war in Labor is coming up to the surface.”

    Maybe so, because the ‘structural’ battle (see above) is being joined – and civil wars command attention. But, looking ahead, to the day when there is one victor (I don’t see compromise) – the temptation for the defeated to strike out on their own will be difficult to resist.

  21. edwardo on 26th March 2013 11:09 pm

    If everyone who wished for a new political party actually did something rather than waiting for Rudd (or, formerly, Turnbull), we’d probably have it by now.

  22. Dianne on 1st April 2013 3:14 pm

    I thought at the time of the spill that Simon Crean had hoped to emerge as a compromise leader. In light of his headline opposition to mooted changes to superannuation taxes, I am absolutely certain that he wants Gillard’s job.

  23. The Piping Shrike on 1st April 2013 3:51 pm

    There are three separate groupings emerging. Those backing the current power brokers, led by Gillard, those opposing them around Rudd and the compromise grouping around Crean/Ferguson.

    I agree that super looks the latest battleground for these three groupings. Internally, the Crean option would make the most sense. But I can’t see it having much appeal beyond that. All in a state of flux though.

  24. Dianne on 1st April 2013 4:43 pm

    Thanks PS. I agree. I could not believe why journalists have not, at the very least, canvassed the idea that Crean may harbour a plan to seize the leadership. No, he had to be presented as the elder statesman acting entirely altruistically but who fell in the fat when Rudd did not challenge. I suspect he knew full well what the numbers would be. Anyway I share your view that Crean has little electoral appeal. Who would be Julia Gillard?

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