June 24th, 2010 at 05:56am
Ah the perils of being at work when stuff like this happens.
It was quite a night last night with the Labor leadership up in the air. I can’t say that I’m surprised that Kevin Rudd is forcing a vote and not simply standing aside for Julia Gillard…Kevin is in there to survive, not to hand over to anyone. Kevin, although portrayed as a nice and friendly man in the “Kevin 07” campaign, has shown his true colours a number of times since. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with him being less nice than he was portrayed (issues of honesty aside), merely that we now all know that he is not the sort of person who is likely to simply hand over power without a fight. In some ways that is admirable…although when your administration is in as much trouble as Kevin’s clearly is, the merits of staying and fighting, and the apparent arrogance of believing that you’ve overseen a wonderful administration is somewhat disturbing.
The one thing which Kevin Rudd said in his rather angrily delivered press conference last night which interested me is that he wants to push ahead with the emissions trading scheme…this is surely another backflip after he was forced to put it on the back-burner last year. In fact it sounded to me as if Kevin made that announcement publicly in an effort to win back some much-needed support from within Labor ranks, as otherwise he would have simply promised it in private and not brought it back to the public consciousness before a plan was formulated, as doing so simply allows the opposition to run the “great big tax” argument all over again.
In my mind, it really doesn’t matter who wins the leadership spill this morning as either way it will be bad news for them. If Kevin Rudd somehow manages to cling to the leadership, then the party will appear disunited and Kevin will need to get rid of many members of his cabinet in order to silence his critics…a move which would further antagonise his opponents and give him an even worse cabinet than the one he currently has. Alternatively he could keep his cabinet and risk more high-profile Labor politicians revolting again in the near future.
If Julia Gillard wins, well I don’t know how an angry-sounding former unionist, former secretary of a socialist group, with as much, if not more blame than Kevin Rudd for many of the fiascos of this government (the Building the Education Revolution scheme, for example) is going to be able to maintain popularity for any length of time, especially once she’s in charge and starts pushing her agenda rather compromising on the agenda of others. I also got the distinct impression from Kevin Rudd’s angry speech last night that, if he loses, he’s going to emulate Mark Latham and start spreading as much dirt as possible on Julia Gillard and all of the other people who he deems to be responsible for his downfall.
Having Julia Gillard as leader would allow Labor to market itself as a left-wing organisation rather than continuing to pretend that it’s a fiscally conservative party when we all know that not a single one of them actually understandings basic free-market economics. It would clarify the position of both the government and the opposition in people’s minds, however it would also have the side-effect of seeing many Australians, who have seen what a mess left-wing policies have made of many things in this country and abroad, finally decide that a return to conservative government is what they want.
Either way, for Labor it’s bad news. That said, one party doing a bad job isn’t necessarily enough to lose them an election as new leaders tend to have a honeymoon period. It will be up to Tony Abbott and the coalition to keep the pressure on Labor if they want to win. They’re generally doing a good job if it so far, however there are a few issues of unity which the Liberals and Nationals will need to work on if they want to truly bury Labor.
So, my predictions are that I expect Julia Gillard to defeat Kevin Rudd and become our first female Prime Minister today. I expect the federal election to be pushed back until at least December to give Julia enough time to settle in as leader…and I expect her relative popularity to disappear rapidly as Australians wake up to how much of a leftist she really is, and how much blame she actually deserves for many of the fiascos of this government. The continuation of the fiascos should help in this regard.
I therefore expect Labor to get absolutely hammered in the next federal election…although I think that will happen regardless of who is leading them.
I do have to say that, should Julia Gillard become leader, I think it will be a shame for our first female Prime Minister to be one which was not chosen by the public at a general election. Julia Gillard, whilst voted in to represent her electorate, was not voted for by the people of Australia as Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd was. It is an unfortunate anomaly in any electoral system that a deputy leader can assume the leadership without the direct approval of the public. I don’t see any sensible way around this anomaly, however it would be a shame to see an historic milestone reached in such a grubby way.