Monday, 24 June 2013
Well, you can see Newspoll, you can see AC Nielsen, you can see Essential Research, and you can see some internal research and research that the unions have done that clearly says at the moment if we had an election today it’s more likely than not that Tony Abbott would become the next prime minister; and that’s why, you know, it is not with any particular joy, it’s not with any particular happiness, that our union changed our position because we want to ensure that Labor continues to govern in the interests of all Australians and that working people get a fair go and we can only do that if Labor’s re-elected at the next election.
Political strategist Paul Howes, 23 June 2010
Who cares what Newspoll comes out with?
Union leader Paul Howes, 19 June 2013
If Rudd is Labor leader by the end of this week, it will be because one of two unlikely things will have happened. Either caucus splits away from the union and faction leadership and takes matters into their own hands by reinstalling Rudd. Or, the union and faction leadership cobble together some compromise where Rudd is installed, but in a manner that guarantees their position remains intact.
The latter is probably the more likely from the party leadership’s side and mimics what Crean tried to do in March with his call for Rudd to challenge, but with himself as deputy to keep Rudd in check. But as Crean found out then, there is little room for compromise. Crean’s unenthusiastic endorsement, and the all-round breakdown of caucus groupings, meant he couldn’t bring anyone else over to support Rudd. Now, with electoral disaster looming closer, it is likely to be Rudd that is more wary of such botched deals that mean he would be stuck with a defeat.
The electoral problem with such a compromise is precisely the same one that has brought the Labor leadership to the current mess: they are redundant and discredited. It is why their attacks on Rudd have backfired and only helped his popularity. Conversely, being seen to having reached some deal with the power brokers will do Rudd little good in the eyes of the electorate. Variants on this refusal to admit basic reality are journalists who claim that a blow-out of leading lights in the cabinet if Rudd returns will somehow be an electoral negative, the same assumption that leads Conroy to proclaim that he wouldn’t serve under Rudd as though it’s a negotiating weapon. They just don’t get it. They are the problem.
The confidence with which Labor power broker mouthpiece, Barrie Cassidy, could say on Insiders last week that Gillard would not be leading Labor to the next election sounded like there was an attempt by the leadership to see whether there was room for compromise, possibly with the Man of the Hour, Shorten, playing a pivotal role. Cassidy was noticeably less forthcoming this week. Dennis Atkins, someone who also has close ties with the Queensland unions, and was similarly saying that something appeared to be moving last week, was back-tracking even faster. This Sunday he doubted a spill would even happen. It sounds like the attempt to reach a compromise has reached a dead end.
The only other option is for caucus to break away from the factional system and ignore its union leadership and do the job themselves. But while the factional hold over caucus has broken down, especially over the last three years, it is quite a different thing to say it has been replaced by a mechanism that will throw out a sitting Prime Minister.
Nevertheless the problem remains for the union and party leadership of regaining control of a Parliamentary party that is slipping from its grip. NSW may provide a clue on what to do.
Much has been made over the last few years of the “NSW disease” as a reason for not dumping Gillard, usually by those who dumped Rudd in the first place and even had a major role in the original NSW fiasco. But there are some similarities. The changes in NSW leaders was driven by internal wrestling of control over the Parliamentary party as a result of the ructions with the union leadership over electricity privatisation. The factions almost lost control with Rees – however Rees is not Rudd, had no leverage in the electorate and hence caucus, and was easily replaced with someone more compliant.
The result, of course, was a historic defeat. Such a defeat had one benefit for the union and faction leadership – it shifts the balance towards safer seats where their pre-selection hold is strongest. As we see with the edifying sight in Batman, control over the safe seats by the power bases remains critical and it is where internal over electoral considerations have most sway. So, lo and behold, in NSW after the defeat we have John Roberson leading the party and the traditional power bases are very much back in the driving seat. So no sign of electoral recovery there. For the union and factional leadership at the federal level, this would suggest the obvious path to recovering control over the party. Turn it into a parliamentary rump.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 24 June 2013.Filed under State of the parties, Tactics