Saturday, 29 June 2013

We Need to Talk About Kevin

So apparently in the world of blogs if you promise something, like a potential change to scheduled service, you are expected to deliver. It is a good thing that this rule does not apply in politics, because otherwise political parties might actually need to think about providing realistic and achievable goals and not sneaking in taxes like the GST/Carbon Tax (pick as appropriate to your political position).

Also, we would have a different Prime Minister right now.

Ruddy Mysterious:

To be honest, despite the media hype, I did not expect Rudd to challenge for the leadership. Polling was indicating that a Rudd v Abbott super smack-down would be a 50-50 contest at best/worst for Labor/the Coalition respectively.

Yes, this is what elections look like to me.
Admittedly this was far better/worse for Labor/the Coalition respectively than the Gillard contest, but it means that Rudd is far from certain to rescue the election for the ALP. To me it would make a lot more sense to keep the promise not to challenge a sitting Prime Minister, wait until after the election, take the leadership back in opposition once everybody blamed Gillard for the loss, rebuild the party and make a solid bid for the 2016 election.

I still believe this was Rudd's initial intention when he promised not to challenge a sitting PM. Since then Rudd either decided that Labor would be too badly damaged to bring back to power during his time at the helm, or feared becoming the next Kim Beazley - the guy repeatedly roped in to fix the party in opposition, and then toppled before the election came. Always the bridesmaid, as they say.

I personally had been holding out for another, more spectacular (and highly improbable) scenario: Rudd quits the Labor party and sits back as Abbott and Gillard race to the bottom. Then, as late as possible, Rudd announces his intention to run with a new party. This new party would include sectors of the ALP's left-wing movement more terrified of losing the election than following Rudd, along with people who deserve a shot at running in an election drawn fromthe young Labor movement and people like Ged Kearney. Then, riding a wave of popularity, sympathy and general fed-up-ness with the major parties, the Rudd party outpolls the ALP, picks up their preferences and returns to power. This would require Rudd to actually be the egomaniac the media suggests, willing to grind the Labor party to dust in the road of his unstoppable Rudd-ernaught. It would have been fun to watch, though.

Sadly, 'twas not to be.
(Who am I kidding? Election night will still be
a roller-coaster of thrills for me anyway.)

But When do I Crack Out the Popcorn?

Now that Rudd has been elected, the September election date is in question. Speculators suggest a late August vote is likely, but I disagree that this is the best course of action (EDIT: Considering wider influences I have changed this opinion).

Rudd has three options to call the election (or rather to recommend an election to the Governor-General): to bring it forward, to keep it where it is or to push it back. Bringing the election forward is the favourite at the moment, amid suggestions that Labor's best chance is during the honeymoon period. The liberals are champing at the bit to get a sooner election, but will not hesitate to criticise any earlier date as evidence that Rudd does not have a mandate to run the country and that he may lack the full backing of his party. Also, as discussed here, there is a minimum 33 day wait between the issuing of the writs and the election. That is more than a month, and the honeymoon would be coming to an end.

Next, the election can stay put. This was my assumption until I remembered that this means Australia's entire Jewish community either needed to cast early ballots or vote during Yom Kippur. The coincidence of an election and a Jewish Holiday (Rosh Hashanah) caused a similar issue in Quebec earlier this year. Kevin now has an easy option to avoid this - move the date that Gillard set.

However, delaying the election has its own problems. The Coalition parties will not be happy with this option at all and will ensure this is seen as a doomed party holding power for as long as possible.

Given that all three options will have public-relations issues, I think the best option is to bring the elections forward or push it back one week. One week is probably defensible without looking like weakness or a power grab, whilst accommodating Jewish voters. I feel that a one-week delay - though disappointing for everyone who wants the whole thing done and dusted (not least of all the Coalition parties) - would be the safest in terms of public opinion. It is not easy to accuse the Prime Minister of grasping on to power when we are talking about a 7-day delay. On the other hand, unless Rudd uses his brief window of interest to make some decisive inroads into the Liberal/National popularity ratings, it is going to be an uphill battle. The longer it drags on, the less rapid the rise in popularity needs to be, but it will also prove harder to swing peoples opinions after the next week or two.

In politics, as in retail, people buy with their hearts and then justify their actions. Rudds impressions over the next two or so weeks will determine the majority of the vote regardless of whether we vote in one month or five. Kev needs to convince us that he can lead effectively, that the ALP is united and that the policies (which, it has been confirmed, will not change from the Gillard policies costed for in the Budget) are worth defending.

The clock is ticking.

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