This post was going to be about the truly appalling current report of the Climate Commission, which was my early morning reading. But that can wait until tomorrow, for as the hours passed it was the ALP, and what it might do in the last two sitting weeks, that became the story of the day. As I understand the saga, you can with some confidence agree to the following:
* The latest poll shows that there has been another drop in support for the ALP.
* It seems that the Prime Minister’s strategy of raising the gender issue again has not succeeded (or has backfired). Support for the ALP among men is now much weaker. (Given the timing of it all, much depends on the extent to which those interviewed for the poll knew or cared about her ‘strategy’.)
* The same poll suggests that if Kevin Rudd were the Leader of the ALP the major parties would be neck and neck on polling day.
* The same poll says that Malcolm Turnbull is preferred as Liberal Leader to Tony Abbott.
* The Prime Minister has apparently indicated that there are no circumstances under which she would vacate the leadership of the Labor Party now.
* Kevin Rudd has said, once again, that he will not challenge.
* There seems to be a feeling within the Parliamentary Labor Party that someone of authority should go to the Prime Minister and implore her, for the good of the Party, to step down. But, to repeat the point, Ms Gillard seems to have said that such a visitor would not be welcomed or listened to. A vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister could hardly be brought from within the governing party. It would be interesting to see what happened if the Opposition were to move one, though I think that is unlikely. There is no need for the Opposition to do anything. The Labor Party has a historic record of shooting itself in in the foot, and is showing its skills as I write.
* What we therefore have, if all the above is correct, is a stalemate. While anything could happen, my gut feeling is that Ms Gillard will lead the Labor Party to a historic defeat, concede on the night, and vacate politics. What will happen then to the leadership of the Labor Party is anyone’s guess.
The only bit of the saga that I find hard to accept is the notion that Kevin Rudd could have that much effect on the outcome of the election. There has been a long-term rejection of the ALP within the electorate for at least two years, despite the fact that Julia Gillard had a much higher standing than Tony Abbott. Or, to put it another way, that Tony Abbott was not desperately popular did not help the Labor Party’s poor standing. What has changed? Nothing, so far as I can see.
I think that Kevin Rudd believes that he can somehow magic up the ‘Kevin 07’ mood of 2007. In my judgment that is simply impossible. He would not have an uncertain John Howard to deal with, but a resurgent Opposition. He would not have a lot of support from within the ALP, since however it happened, his appearance as Labor Leader would greatly anger significant sections of the Party, as well as a lot of women who support the ALP because a woman is its leader. And unless I’m awfully mistaken, there has developed a great disenchantment with Labor in office that can’t be overcome simply with a change in its leadership. Today’s electorate is not at all like the one six years ago.
As the Opposition has been quick to point out, much of the poor performance of the Labor Party in power owes as much to Kevin Rudd as it does to Julia Gillard. He began the over-promising routine, the daily ‘announceable’, the messiness of government business, and the empty sloganising. She continued it, it is true. His ETS is her carbon tax. They can both share in the faltering and oversold NBN. I find it hard to believe that the electorate would discount what has happened, and feel reassured by the return of Kevin Rudd. In any case the Labor Party would look split, and a split ALP suffers worst of all.
Malcolm Turnbull? On the whole it is Labor voters who like him, not Liberals. And there is nil prospect of anyone on the Opposition countenancing a challenge now. They are so close to victory, and it is Tony Abbott who has got them there, unpopular though he may be. I’m sure that Malcolm Turnbull will bide his time. It is not now, if it is ever. All the attention is on the governing party. So many can hardly believe that this is happening, and I would be one of them except that I can remember the split in the 1950s that produced the DLP, and know of the splits in the early and later 1930s, as well as the one over conscription in 1917.
What we are seeing is a split-like tension that is not in any serious way ideological, but one over power, position and status. It is not a lovely thing to watch, whatever your party position.