Terminal, Interminably Terminal

There Actually Is No Cure

The business of the ALP Leadership has gone beyond a farce – it did that back in March this year when Kevin Rudd refused to contest the leadership. Since then it has veered towards the kind of tragedy the Ancient Greeks thought was cathartic, and if things go the way they’re going it will indeed by cathartic when the ALP government get flushed out of office by an angry electorate.

This morning’s leading news was that Julia Gillard’s primary vote support had collapsed to 29%.

In a finding certain to ratchet up pressure on the Prime Minister’s besieged leadership, the latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll has found Labor’s standing has continued to slide, led entirely by a 7 per cent exodus of men, while failing to lift substantially among female voters.

According to the monthly survey, the ALP’s primary vote now has a psychologically devastating ”2” in front of it with less than three months to the election on September 14.

Ms Gillard also has gone backwards as preferred prime minister, giving her the lowest approval rating in a year.

Which, when you look at it, means that Julia Gillard has more chance of being run over by a bus than being Prime Minister on 15th September this year. The word still, is that she’s not quitting; that Kevin Rudd isn’t challenging; and that Bill Shorten is being leaned on mightily to do *something*. Then of course we learn Mrs. Shorten is sort of a cheerleader for Ms Gillard.

One would have to surmise there’s no way Bill Shorten is going to be that trigger to “lance the boil”.

All of this has had me thinking about what this means and basically it is this: the ALP as a party that represents a significant portion of the electorate is finished. The great alliance of interests that rallied for Gough Whitlam and then Bob Hawke and Paul Keating is now gone. It has been whittled back down to a bunch of Unionists who have essentially captured the castle, and they’re not giving it up. This would explain the expressed desire on the part of Julia Gillard to disavow being a social democrat or a progressive, and stake her position around unionism.

The immense popularity of Kevin Rudd is also vexing as it is fascinating as it seems to hold so much hope. But then again it did the same in 2007 and somehow we’ve ended up where we have ended up. This suggests that Kevin Rudd is probably nowhere near as good, as he is widely believed by the electorate. Or maybe it is the instant nostalgia for 2007, a year before the grinding Great recession and a term well before the frictions of the hung Parliament and minority government. I am suspecting that Kevin Rudd wasn’t all he’s cracked up to be. I had my doubts back then and in many ways I still have my doubts now.  Of course if I could choose, I would still choose Kevin Rudd over Julia Gillard.

Whatever the case, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a coup to oust Julia Gillard, which means the electorate has made up its mind and it’s going to be Tony Abbott who is going to be Prime Minister. Not surprisingly, there are many people who are rolling their eyes at this prospect, and some are even looking for their passports. The ALP is holding out hope that all the people who deserted it in the polls would actually vote for them, even if through preferences, once it comes into sharp focus that it is Tony Abbott who will be Prime Minister after the ALP lose on the 15th September. My own view is that a lot of people would take a dim view of such blackmail from the ALP. After all, the ALP has resisted its own constituents who have asked for Kevin Rudd to be brought back. How can such insults be repaid but with a ballot for the other party?

So little is known of Tony Abbott’s policies apart from stopping asylum seeker boats ad towing them back to Indonesia, repealing the carbon tax and taxing top companies to fund maternity leave. Just as it is the case every time the government changes, it is important that the new Prime Minster is just not the previous Prime Minister. The years that the ALP spent in opposition were actually quite terrible and humiliating. By the time Kevin Rudd won, there was only Simon Crean left from the previous ALP government in the lower house. This change of generation and shortage of expertise prompted Kevin Rudd to hold a short leash and tight rein, which of course led to the coup.

If one thing is certain for the Rudd coup plotters is that the vast majority of them won’t be part of the next ALP government, if that day ever arrives. If they are ministers now, they sure as hell won’t be back, because it’s going to be a long time before the ALP can rebuild the Labor brand. If it becomes even more captive to the interests of the unions, it’s going to be nigh impossible to build a broader agenda.

To be strictly honest about it, I don’t see how the ALP can continue being the major party that represents the progressive left. If John Robertson’s Labor Party in NSW is any indication, they won’t even begin to be relevant once they lose office this September. It’s going to be a very miserable and humiliating time for Gillard, Rudd and Shorten after the coming election day. The chorus of “I told you so” is going to be thick and fast.

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