Political Advice By The Column Inch
Posted by Possum Comitatus on April 1, 2008
In a headline that rivals “Strange Man on Public Transport!” for its sheer obviousness, Opposition is a Tough Business. With new governments come new oppositions which generally struggle to cope with the large decrease in relevance associated with the opposition benches. But after eighteen weeks, most Federal oppositions have at least developed some veneer of political strategy, some understanding of the job required in opposition which the polling starts to reflect. The day to day demand of having a 5 second grab on the great suite of topics that make up the news cycle starts getting complimented with more strategic approaches to the long term business of opposition.
What seems to separate the current opposition from their forebears is that the political strategy in its entirety appears to have been outsourced by the column inch to a set of News Limited journos that give Hawker Britton a run for their money in terms of pure spin. We’ve had the carers payment “crisis” which was little more than journalistic speculation gone feral, we’ve had the Aurukun/Macklin nonsense, we’ve currently got the Australia/Japan relationship “crisis” where the list goes on and on and on. The problem is that these stories sit somewhere between manufactured outrage and mocumentraries on the quality spectrum, allowing the government to easily adapt to whatever crisis they’re apparently facing this week by throwing some small bone to kill the story – an early budget clarification on the one hand, organise a quick Japan meet and greet on the other.
While it’s to be expected that oppositions follow the news cycle, and its to be expected that this type of sensationalist tabloid journalism that drives eyeballs to advertisers will make up a large part of that news cycle, regardless of the size of the paper the stories are printed on – the problem for the opposition is that it’s mostly vacuous fluff that that the public either sees through, doesn’t care about, or worse – they do believe it was an issue and then watch as that nice man Mr Rudd far from caving in to pressure, simply does what’s right and ends up looking in touch with the voters.
If we create a rolling two pollster average using Newspoll and Morgan and compare the first eighteen weeks of the Rudd and Howard governments, something stands out:
By this time in the term of the Howard government, the Beazley opposition had started to move on from the easy pickings of the news cycle and began to compliment that by applying greater strategic pressure about the new government’s policy program, which resulted in Howard’s polling honeymoon being slowly eroded. Yet the current opposition with its scatter gun style and lazy strategic approach is, if anything, falling further behind the ALP as time goes on.
If we want to place it in an even starker context, we can compare the vote gap that existed between the government and opposition of the day in 1996 and 2008 – again using this rolling two pollster average.
Whether this is the result of Rudd being a better political manager than Howard, Beazley being a better opposition leader than Nelson, the nature of political circumstance at the time or some mix of any and all of these things – what is inescapable is that Nelson is failing and that’s not good for the quality of governance.
What might be worth a shot is for the opposition to spend a little more time focusing on real policy issues that the public actually gives a hoot about and a little less time following the droning choir of News Ltd spruikers that are taking tabloid politics to whole new shallows of gravitas.
Unless of course the Libs really like turning the previously unheard of 20 point vote gap into a regular theme of federal politics. They should look north and see how that’s played out in Qld to disabuse themselves of any notion that such a thing would be impossible.
In other news – Steve Dickson, one of the 8 State Parliamentary members of the Qld Liberal party has threatened to quit over the proposed party merger not being taken to the vote in the party membership. The good news is that such a move would break the 4 all deadlock over the regular Lib leadership tussles, avoiding the need for future coin tossing to solve this most difficult of issues.
Still on Qld matters, Lawrence Springborg has threatened to take his pineapple and go home if the Libs and the Nats continue to refuse to take his proposed new party seriously. Meanwhile Mal Brough has decided to storm the barricades of the Liberal organisation in QLD and put a sword to the evil forces of Count Santo Santoro and his dark army of mediocrity.
Not to be out done in the loony-tunes stakes, NSW Liberal State MP Ray Williams has been accused of getting all hairy chested and challenging a branch president (as well as anyone said president could muster for help) to an old fashioned round of fisticuffs. And just in case you thought that this outbreak of the sillyseason was limited to State politics, the NSW Libs at the local council level have started recruiting One Nation hacks to help them run their local government campaign in the Baulkham Hills area.
Meanwhile, away from Tory central and over at the comrades in Victoria, Andrew Landeryou has uncovered some nuttery going on in Higgins at the local ALP branch level that pretty much explains why most people couldn’t be buggered to join political parties.
And finally, Andrew Bolt plays an April fools day prank on his readership, demonstrating via the comments section what most of us have known about his particular audience for a long time.
On something completely different – this is why they made Youtube.
Ooops – sorry. That was just Nightwatchman threatening to get “in and out of everyday Australians”. If you’re heading to a servo or shopping center over the next week or two, try not to get violated.
This is why they made Youtube!