How Screwed Are We? How Screwed Are They?
I’m still reeling from the Leadership challenge that wasn’t. Julia Gillard seems to be smarting smug about all this but I can assure her that all the non-contest achieved was to seal her fate at the next election. Today, Peter Hartcher has this article here which spells it out:
The Prime Minister told her cabinet minister her government was in difficulty in the polls because it was suffering leaking, destabilisation and treachery at the hands of Rudd and his henchmen.
Crean replied: “I understand what that’s like, I went through that myself” when he was Labor leader from 2001 to 2003. “But I’m saying to you as honestly and bluntly as possible that you can’t consistently, for this long, be on 31 or 32 per cent just because of destabilisation.
“I was never that low. You have to look at your own performance.”
He was referring to Labor’s share of the primary vote. Labor failed to win the last election with a primary vote of 38 per cent. It has been consistently below this level for the entire 2½-year term since, meaning that it is in line to lose decisively at the September 14 election.
And the party’s national secretary George Wright told Labor’s national executive this week that it was planning its campaign on the assumption it would win 32 per cent of the primary vote – meaning it fully expects to suffer an election wipe-out of historic proportions.
Far from Canberra, and party politics and the influence of the media and the news cycle, out here where the real people live, it seem extraordinary to us that Julia Gillard takes the unanimous support she got at the meeting as support for her to continue. As Simon Crean rightfully pointed out to her, it’s just not the damaging leaks; there’s something fundamentally wrong about the way she is going about her business as Prime Minister.
You could say a lot about her prime minister-ship, from an analysis of the symbolic to the policies to the rhetoric, but what the 31% support says is that the middle has dis-endorsed her.
Here’s a back of the envelope calculation of just how bad she has been doing. If you work from the total pie of the electorate, it’s easy to understand. 10-12% of the population are loony Left and and an equal proportion are loony Right. this counts for the Greens and Nats at the extreme ends of the spectrum – the Commies, the Eco-Terrorists, the Trotskists, the Fascists, the Ayn-Rand-devotees and so on. That leaves about 75-76% in the middle. There’s always going to be the empathy-impaired Liberal-Conservative types who make up 30-35% of the population. That leaves about 41% which used to be roughly the primary vote for the ALP back in the Hawke-Keating era, some of which has absconded to the Greens. Last election, it seemed this number was 1%, so let’s say it’s 40% of the population is ‘traditionally’ ALP voting by dint of conscience, empathy and properly progressive thinking.
If Julia Gillard is hovering between 28-31%, it means about 10% of the voting public who would vote ALP are on strike. Roughly one quarter of the people that count, the people who can be appealed to through argument and persuaded through intelligent discussion have switched off and have done so for an awfully long time.
Now, Julia Gillard might point at her policy record but she has also rhetorically burnt these people down. She has said she is not a Social Democrat, not a Progressive, but a Labor Prime Minster, who is proud of the trade union links. She is willing to wage an election around ideas that sound suspiciously like class warfare rhetoric but like the Tea Party of the right in America, it’s only language that can firm up the electoral base. The base are the poor captives of the rhetoric who cannot vote otherwise. Yet for those who can, she has not made a single difference. Instead, what we’re hearing from Julia Gillard is that she’s going to bat for the Trade Unions and people on welfare payments through Centrelink. That’s it. And people wonder why her support is 31% on a good day.
Let’s say for a moment the electoral strategy for the ALP is the prospect of Tony Abbott is so awful – let’s face it, he would be a catastrophe – the 10% on voting strike will have to come running back to the ALP on 14th September. It’s really risky taking these people for granted. In a sense, it’s a game of brinkmanship between this 10% and Julia Gillard. What the hung Parliament showed is that the ALP can’t count on them to automatically support them. What the 31% figure (and 62% support for Kevin Rudd) shows is that they have not mended bridges.
Given the strife of the ICAC hearings in NSW where the NSW Right faction has been found to have been largely bankrupt of policy, decorum and integrity, there may be no coming back for the ALP in NSW for at least 3 elections cycles, which is roughly a decade. And without NSW, how often can the ALP win the Federal election?
The picture that’s beginning to emerge is that the the ALP as we knew it may no longer be electable. Kevin Rudd may come to represent the last time that an ALP leader was able to marshal the ALP standard and win office in his own right for a very long time. The longer it goes, the more historians are going to blame this current bunch of ALP members who let Julia Gillard drive the party into a ditch at full speed. Contrary to the drivel here, history will be rightfully harsh on the ALP and in particular Julia Gillard.