Chris Kenny is a colleague at the Australian. He is a good friend an confidant, a man whose wise counsel I value.
(OK, I’ve actually never met him and have had no dealings with him apart from occasional firing of missives – usually from me to him – over Twitter.)
Chris possesses political antennae second to none. He can pick election results and political events a mile off, well in advance. But unfortunately for the rest of us, he usually doesn’t let anyone know until afterwards. He doesn’t want to ruin it for the rest of us.
Take for instance a blog post of his before last year’s federal election. It was three weeks after Kevin Rudd’s return to Labor’s leadership and the opinion polls had shown a big leap in support for the government. For example, Newspoll’s final survey under Julia Gillard had the Coalition ahead 57 43. With Rudd as leader Newspoll registered 51 49 in the Coalition’s favour, and then had the parties tied at 50-50.
It was the day of publication of that 50-50 Newspoll, 9 July 2013, that Chris penned his post. You can read it in full here.
It includes this passage about the outcome of the upcoming election.
“[M]ake no mistake there will now be a serious contest – which is what voters want. In the end, however, my expectation is that after six years of shambolic government, with the major dilemmas unresolved, Labor will be defeated – remember they start from behind and need to win at least two seats from the Coalition to survive. We will see.”
A superficial reading of this paragraph would suggest that Chris believed the Coalition will probably win, but he wasn’t totally sure and a Labor victory was certainly possible.
But this would be to underestimate the way Chris operates, how he weaves his web. Nothing is as it seems.
For it turned out, after the election, that Chris had never had any doubt at all about it. He was just playing with us. Three months later, after the big Coalition victory, he went to town on folks who had expressed similar thoughts to him: that the Coalition would probably win but there was a small chance Labor would.
Here he is in December 2013.
“Despite long-running and deeply embedded policy dilemmas for Labor, much of the media was convinced the last-minute change to Rudd this year could deliver victory – an assessment that must have portrayed a superficial reading of polls, a misreading of the ingrained attitudes of voters, or both.
‘If Labor pulls off what was until a couple of weeks ago an unimaginable election triumph . . .’ [Laura] Tingle wrote in July.
‘The idea that Labor could win the upcoming election seemed preposterous just over a week ago,’ wrote [Barrie] Cassidy the same month. ‘Not any more.’
These were not rogue assessments; Tingle and Cassidy were gallery stalwarts expressing accepted wisdom.”
The crafty devil. The joke in July had been on them, and on all of us. Perhaps when Chris formulated assessments virtually identical to Tingle and Cassidy, he was poking fun at them. Maybe he was leading them down the garden path, or perhaps he did not want the Coalition to get complacent.
Or he didn’t want to take the entertainment away from the rest of us.
“We will see.” Indeed Chris, nicely put.
But it would be nice if once, just once, he could let us know in advance.
We can handle the truth.