To the victor goes the fantasies

- That’s not a poll driven prime minister – this is a poll driven prime minister

We all thought Kevin Rudd was content-free and gutless; Julia Gillard has indicated she’s likely to gutless out on the mining tax. She was party to every previous bit of Rudd government gutlessing out. What’s left?

- The best, perhaps only, government policy explainer, Lindsay Tanner, is going. Just leaves Emerson and Bowen.

- Until 7pm on Wednesday most commentators favoured the government to win the election. Now they’re saying Labor couldn’t win under Rudd. That’s narrative-land for you.

- Barrie Cassidy had interesting piece in the drum. Rudd did make lots of mistakes.

But like everyone else Barrie accepts at face value the story, laid out for example with faux outrage by the over-exposed Paul Howes on Lateline, that it was Rudd sending CoS Alistair Jordon to visit caucus that drove Gillard over the edge.

Yes that’s right, she wasn’t going to challenge, but Kevin angered her so much she couldn’t help herself.

Oh, and Jordan wouldn’t let Karl Bitar show the prime minister the polling, so he …  sent it to Andrew Bolt instead. As you would; the journalist you go to when you’ve got your leader’s interests at heart.

Fair enough the plotters want to pretend there was no plot. Must the journos play along?

- And have a look at it on Bolt’s site. All vague and dodgy.

Party people armed with an agenda and opinion polls should be treated with grains of salt.

45 Responses to “To the victor goes the fantasies”

  1. Graeme says:

    Here’s a counter factual: had Rudd not been ambushed, yesterdays only news would have been Tanner’s leaving. Which the media would have spun heavily as ‘good rat leaving; SS Rudd sinking’.

  2. Sorry Pete – you made a mistake when you said:

    “Party people armed with an agenda and opinion polls should be treated with grains of salt.”

    It should be “buckets” of salt :-P

  3. Peter Brent says:

    You’re right, my mistake. Truckloads even.

  4. Catalyst says:

    i always thought it would be interesting to have a female PM, but I am not happy about the circumsstances of this elevation.If Julia was squeaky clean she could have refused to play the plotters game – no contestant – no contest.
    It stinks of opportunism- a seamless transition after the elction would have been they way to go..Rudd might have been persuaded to quit for ‘health’ reasons- result no apparant division and esteem for both parties.
    I did not always agree with Rudd, but I was saddened and shocked by the brutality of his demise. I think he is a good man – and deserved better.

  5. Doug says:

    Beware of factional leaders bearing polls …

  6. Catalyst says:

    Hi Peter, What has Gerard made of all this?
    Did he ‘always know’? As I eschew the MSM I am in the dark on this one – but I do know his penchant for insider knowledge after the event..

  7. Peter Brent says:

    Of course Gerard always knew this would happen, as he’ll explain next Tuesday.

  8. Catalyst says:

    Makes you wonder why he has never won Lotto and retired….

  9. heptat says:

    The thing that makes this most galling is the fact it happened *in his first term*. Yes, he seems to have lost the plot this year, but still…I’m surprised by how angry this turn of event (and the machinations behind it) have made me. Angry and very disillusioned.

  10. Catalyst says:

    heptat- I agree I wish it could have been different– I felt deadened and numb all yesterday.Bereaved almost. I believed in his vison, thought thwt he did make a difference and I agree he seemed to be struggling but the media were just relentless.

    I would have welocmed a female pm, but not like this- it is tainted to start with.

  11. Bill O'Slatter says:

    This has got “ends very badly” written all over it.
    1. the removal of the leader whenever capricious whims come over the plotters.
    2, at the behest of the highest bidder
    3. the complete absence of any ideals.
    4.The key involvement of the most idiotic of the media in this
    5. the less idiotic media buys the plotters spin hook ,line and sinker.
    Once a spill is on, the potential leaders have to be involved. The question is to what extent did Gillard encourage them, and does she realise the extent to which she is a compromised leader.

  12. Doug says:

    Note Morgan Poll taken last weekend shows ALP in front 53-47 on TPP – most of the improvement coming from shift of other to the ALP.

  13. We all thought Kevin Rudd was content-free and gutless; Julia Gillard has indicated she’s likely to gutless out on the mining tax. She was party to every previous bit of Rudd government gutlessing out. What’s left?

    I did’t. I thought Rudd was a more conservative version of Howard, with a less divisive style. But Howard was not “content free”. He was just cautious. Rudd was too cautious on ETS, and over-compensated by being a bit reckless on RSPT.

    I guess this shows that as soon as some noisy and powerful interest groups bares its fangs the government goes to water. How will leaders ever make tough decisions if they back down at the first whiff of grape-shot?

    The polls show that the ALP was holding its ground in general, altough with some local set-backs. But this kind of two-steps forward one-step back is par for the course in politics, in life itself.

    The notion that Rudd would not have won the election is pure fantasy of the commentariat and machine-operators. About the best one can say of that spin is that Rudd’s RSPT policy was a bit of a flop with the general public and was alienating a bunch of voters in marginal seats in resource-rich states.

    It means that Caucus support for Rudd was paper thin, based on the flunctuating fortunes of a few feint-hearted back-benchers. How can any PM make any decent long-term policy – which is bound to creat noisy losers – if he can’t rely on team support, for some of the diggers to take a bullet for the greater cause?

    Its like I will divorce my wife when she has a bad-hair day.

  14. Basically Gillard’s win is a victory for the mining companies and the richest men in Australia.

    Hoo-ray.

  15. Paul C. says:

    Jack, Shouldn’t that be the mining companies AND the unions. It is like a massive yin and yang. The miner companies were sick of Rudd and said he had to go. They could cope with Gillard, they said. In the end, the unions (Howe, Shorten et al) just did what the boss’s wanted. Good doggie.

  16. It will be interesting to see what the first crop of post-Rudd polls indicate. If they show no change in primary: ALP 35, L/NP 40, GREEN 15 and OTHER 10; or 2PP: ALP 52 v L/P 48 then we can safely assume that his whole exercise has been to allay the fears of a few nervous nellies in marginal electorates.

    I cant see the ALP primary vote shooting up except at the expense of the GREENs. And why would GREENs be more likely to vote Gillard over Rudd when Gillard has gutted the RSPT?

    Only a big fall in L/NP primary vote to the advantage of the ALP could justify this leadership change. Will swinging voters switch to Gillard just because she eased off the miners?

    We will see.

  17. Its entirely possible that the unions representing well-off workers in QLD and WA kicked up a stink over Rudd’s RSPT. (Is that Paul Howes role in the AWU?)

    This only goes to show that being pro-union does not always imply being Left-wing.

    In any case, Gillard’s leaderhip coup is an impressive victory for the Right-wing, both within and without the ALP.

    Typical that Catherine Deveney celebrates the machine operators stich-up entirely in post-seventies identity political terms (”I am woman hear me roar…etc”)

    This move looks very much like the way the NSW Right parachuted Katharine Kenneally into Macquarie Street. Okay Gillard is worthy of the job on her own merits. But replace a flat, tired looking male leader with a bright, personable looking female one on the eve of an election?

    The parallells are eerie.

  18. john says:

    It was the Paul Howes of the AWU from Queensland, and Gary Gray from WA. He’s been in the mining companies’ pocket for years, and his seat was looking marginal.

  19. john @ #18 said:

    It was the Paul Howes of the AWU from Queensland, and Gary Gray from WA. He’s been in the mining companies’ pocket for years, and his seat was looking marginal.

    Right, thanks for the heads-up. That puts the final piece in the jigsaw together.

    So Rudd lost popularity because he shelved the ETS. This loss of popularity was to parties on his Left.

    But he lost power because he tried on the RSPT. The power grab came from operators to his Right.

    And Gillard’s first policy move was to back off on the RSPT, to appease Rightist powers. Her second was to suggest forward movement on ETS, to appease the Leftist polity.

    Thats an interesting comment on how the game is played by insiders.

  20. john @ #18 said:

    It was the Paul Howes of the AWU from Queensland, and Gary Gray from WA. He’s been in the mining companies’ pocket for years, and his seat was looking marginal.

    Right, thanks for the heads-up. That puts the final piece in the jigsaw together.

    So Rudd lost popularity because he shelved the ETS. This loss of popularity was to parties on his Left.

    But he lost power because he tried on the RSPT. The power grab came from operators to his Right.

    And Gillard’s first policy move was to back off on the RSPT, to appease Rightist powers. Her second was to suggest forward movement on ETS, to appease the Leftist polity.

    Thats an interesting comment on how the game is played by insiders.

  21. lw says:

    John/Jack,

    Interesting to here that Paul Howes et al ended up deciding who the PM should be. I dont remember seeing his name on any how to vote cards at the last election.

    I heard one Labor supporter suggest at work today that unelected officials deciding who should lead the country outside of an election smacks of communisim. Its an interesting take, not entirly incorrect I guess.

  22. I’ve changed my mind. [Alter Ego: World shrugs its shoulders. Ego: Well, I think its worth mentioning.]

    I now think that Gillard will do at least as well, if not better, than Rudd would have done. So I posit at least a 52 ALP – 48 L/NP outcome. With a more respectable performance by the ALP in the marginal seats in resource-rich states, esp since RSPT dropped.

    How that translates into overall seats is too hard for me to tell. But the ALP holding its current advantage of 18 seats would not surprise me. I need more data on this and they ain’t publishing it, just yet.

    My reasoning is that I think, contra Mumbles, that preferred PM is possibly a better predictor of overall seat margin than two-party preferred vote, when the two measures are out of sync. Of course normally two-party preferred voting intention and preferred PM are in sync so there is no puzzle.

    But when they are out of sync, or going that way, then it is time to resort to the beauty contest. Which is what happened in the case of Rudd/Gillard v Abbott.

    In 1998 and in 2004 federal elections, from within 12 months of the election, the polls showed Howard’s preferred PM rating was a better predictor of the L/NP’s final seat outcome than the L/NP’s two-party preferred voting intention.

    In both elections Howard was the preferred PM by five points or more against his rivals, Beazley and Latham. But in both elections the L/NP’s final seat outcome was miles out from the two-party preferred voting intention polls.

    In 1998 the L/NP was far ahead on two-party preferred voting intention yet in fact finished slightly ahead on seats. More or less in proportion to the advantage that Howard had over Beazley.

    Whilst in 2004 the L/NP was far behind on two-party preferred voting intention yet in fact finished well ahead on seats. More or less in proportion to the advantage that Howard had over Latham.

    So when preferred PM ratings are diving, whilst two-party preferred intentions are bouncing around, its probably better to go with preferred PM.

    I dont particularly like this conclusion. It smells of the Presidentialisation of the Westminster system, with associated connotations of media dominance. But I can’t see any other inference to draw from the facts.

    The underlying intellectual rationale for preferred PM being a better predictor of seats than overall two-party preferred is that when swinging voters in marginal seats are trying to make up their minds they go for the leader, not the party, they most prefer. So preferred PM captures this crucial underlying tendency better than two-party preferred.

    The implication is that the machine operators have acted prudently in dumping Rudd, from a purely Machiavellian point of view.

    But feel free to correct this analysis, psephos amateur and pro.

  23. Skippy os says:

    Just a comment on how this is being seen in finance land overseas. It is seen as a victory for the mining companies and their control of Australia. So we now have situation where the rspt was seen as creating risk for investors, but now much worse as we are mentioned in the same breath as goodluck Jonathon of Nigeria. Great moves by all making a bad thing really bad.

  24. john says:

    @ jack strocchi

    Voters from Queensland were going to vote Labor as long as we had some skin in the game. Without a Prime minister, swing voters will vote National/liberal.

    Western Australia was never going to vote Labor.

  25. Neil says:

    The moment I saw Gillard on Australia Story on Monday night I smelled a rat.

    This was well planned, clinical and organised. A professional political hit.

    If you live by the sword you die by the sword. Gillard will eventually suffer the same fate as Rudd.

  26. skippy os @ #23 said:

    Just a comment on how this is being seen in finance land overseas. It is seen as a victory for the mining companies and their control of Australia.

    I have been trying to figure out the balance between the ALP’s policy wonks and political apparatchiks for most of Rudd’s ministry. After the first white Paper on the ETS came through I concluded that climate change was going rom “the greatest moral challenge of a generation” to “into the too-hard basket”. Jack Strocchi wrote on 17 JUN 2009

    On economic-ecologic issues the ALP ministry will take the path of least resistance between largely Right-[wing] private interests and largely Left-[wing] public opinion.

    Rudd was clearly torn between the two tendencies, with his soft-heart in favour of Left-wing policy integrity whilst his hard-head usually giving way to Right-wing political interest.

    But over the latter part of 2009 I though that Rudd would have to give way to some policy integrity to at least appease the growing GREEN momentum growing to his Left. That was not possible on ecologic grounds owing to Minchin’s Martyrdom Operation on the ETS.

    The RSPT was a critical test over whether the ALP has the ability to actually promote a progressive economic agenda. This question has now been answered in the negative.

    The media narrative has emphasised the flunctuations of Left-wing political opinion. But the real narrative should focus on the machinations of Right-wing policy interests.

    So Gillard’s victory is a big victory for the Right-wing, both in political process (elite pundits and appartchiks over-riding popular opinion) and in policy product (ditching ETS and RSPT).

    I can’t see Gillard doing much in the way of reversing this tendency, Catherine Deveney’s hysterics notwithstanding.

  27. PeterJF says:

    The issues may be well more complicated than I infer, but Howes seemed to be a very effective advocate for the RSPT when he debated Clive Palmer at the National Press Club, so in my mind the suggestion that he and Gary Gray are both motivated by a desire to gut the tax is at least questionable.
    Neil,
    Julia G may have been playing both sides of the street also, but she does not appear to have co-operated with Australian Story on the re-make of her 2006 profile. On Monday night, I thought it was just mischief-making on the part of the program, but events later in the week have certainly raised some doubts about that. However, I still subscribe to Dick Hall’s first law of politics – the old choice between cock-up or conspiracy.

  28. Neil says:

    PeterJF,

    You may be right about Australian Story, but what an amazing coincidence that it was screened 3 days before Rudd was toppled. The timing was exquisite.

    Of course Gillard didn’t cooperate with the program, but I bet she wasn’t disappointed that it went to air. It showed her in a very favourable light.

    No, the whole thing is very fishy. In fact my wife (who is not interested in politics) asked me whether Gillard was intending to challenge Rudd. It appeared so crass and obvious.

    Faced with a choice between following my instincts and rationalising the logic of a stuff up I’ll back my instincts. The first response is usually the correct one.

  29. jack strocchi @ #21 on 25 June 2010 at 7:28 pm said:

    I’ve changed my mind….I now think that Gillard will do at least as well, if not better, than Rudd would have done. So I posit at least a 52 ALP – 48 L/NP outcome. With a more respectable performance by the ALP in the marginal seats in resource-rich states, esp since RSPT dropped.

    Looks like I changed my mind on the wisdom of the Gillard-ALP just in time*. The http://www.smh.com.au/national/gillard-saves-labor-20100625-z9qy.html?autostart=1“>first polls back show her re-establishing a commanding lead over Abbott-L/NP, both in preferred PM, primary vote and two-party preferred distribution:

    Ms Gillard has a thumping 21-percentage-point lead over Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister.

    Labor’s primary vote rose 14 points to 47 per cent since the last poll three weeks ago. Support for the Coalition slipped by 1 point to 42 per cent.

    This gave Labor a two-party-preferred lead of 55 per cent to 45, an 8-point swing to the government in three weeks. If the swing were repeated uniformly on election day, Labor would pick up another 11 seats.

    Support for the Greens, which had benefited from the disenchantment with the government, plunged from 15 per cent to 8.

    Of course this could simply be the honey-moon effect combined with the legitimacy conferred by receiving the Queens commission as Prime Minister. But if this advantage lasts through to the election then we can conclude that leadership matters and is a big factor in partisan alignment, at least over short-term.

    From a pseph pov, we can conclude that the leadership beauty contest matters when preferred PM is out of sync with two-party preferred intention. Which was starting to happen with Rudd.

    This means that mumbles attempt to downplay preferred PM is wrong and Possum/Poll Bludger are right to up play this measure.

    My own feeling is that preferred PM matters to swinging voters in marginal seats. By definition such voters do not have strong political loyalty and may likely be moved by personal preferences. Specifically the old “do I want to share a lounge room with this guy for another three years” effect.

    If they turn of a politician in the election year then they will likely turn against the party when it comes closer to polling booth time. Hence preferred PM and two-party preferred are likely to converge the closer one gets to election date.

    I still think Rudd would have won. But I am pretty confident that Gillard will romp home now.

    * I swear I did not know about the fresh polling data until hours after I posted the quoted change-of-heart comment.

  30. Graeme says:

    Latham’s column and other comments already anticipating Gillard’s dethronement reminded me of Enoch Powell’s line – that all political lives (unless they are cut off happily midstream) end in failure.

  31. Ed says:

    From the Cassidy story:

    “Jordan then made phone calls and walked Parliament House trying to get a sounding on the support within caucus for Rudd, a task that would ordinarily fall to MPs, and experienced ones at that. And ordinarily, it would not have happened unless there was at least a sniff of a challenge from somewhere.”

    Don’t the two parties have Whips in the House of Representatives? That is the case in other legislatures.

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