AFTER THE PARTY? November 21, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
Some of us a looking forward to Saturday night around 9 o’ clock when we expect clear signs that the Howard Prime Ministership and the Coalition Government will be a thing of the past. The question is moot as to whether Howard will retain his own seat and since the result will go to preferences, this result will not be known immediately. Given such an outcome, which seems more likely than not, questions will arise as to what sets of voters were significant, and reflect on the effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, of the leaders and major party campaigns. The emergence of psephologist blogs means, rather than wait and never get to read the political scientists, we will get the see a diagnosis of the entrails of the election soon after the event, or least I am hoping that this will happen.
Looking at last nights 7.30 report, which I have done retrospectively, the best way to watch television, and better still just read the transcript(via Tim Dunlop), J Howard has now after 11 years adopted the Keating mantra that to change the government is to change the nation. Of course, Howard is saying that change now would be risky change. His extended answer was:
I don’t agree with that[the contention by Shanahan at The Australian that he is running a scare campaign]. Let me say this about the campaign. Let me say this, I think there are some people, and there would be some people watching this program, who have this frame of mind at the moment. They’re saying to themselves, Howard hasn’t done a bad job, don’t agree with everything he’s done but the economy is in very good shape and he’s looked after national security but gee, he’s been there a while and maybe it’s time for a change. I think there are a number of people in that frame of mind and can I just say to them that there’s no such thing as a changeless change of government, if I can explain that. There’s no such thing as changing the government without changing the circumstances of the country. And this idea that you may be able to change just for the sake of change but everything go on exactly the same is not right. There is a risk involved and I would say to people who think that we may have done a good job and their only reason for changing is to sort of experiment with change believe me there is a risk, there is a risk in Mr Rudd, there is a risk in having for the first time in Australia’s history Labor governments at every level. That’s not a scare campaign, that’s a statement of fact. There is cross checking
Howard identifies the “it’s time” factor, as the major ingredient, or at least in the demographic that watch The 7.30 Report. Allowing for the fact, one has to apparently, that in retrospect we may find his is being ironic, it seems to me there are an insufficient people in this category to make a difference. Perhaps the polls do indicate that people find it reassuring to have government that has been showing it age for some time, not to mention its ideological bent. You first become self deluded, then your enemies destroy you. Will J Howard quiver on Saturday night, or more likely, will he claim he saw the writing on the pavement during his morning power walks all the time? Probably the later, I expect.
Bill Bowtell on the ABC Unleased Op Ed column says that Labor and Rudd will be successful because they are attracting a coalition of supporters that have finally coalesced, even before the ascension of Rudd. Howard, he says, contra Menzies, has being a principle force in a Liberal party, despite all the talk of the mainstream,that has deserted the centre of Australian politics. Then he identifies what he regards as four distinct groups of voters who will effect the shift in the political status quo:
Added together, the diverse elements of the new Rudd coalition – rusted-on ALP voters, disillusioned Howard battlers, Greens, small ‘l’ liberal voters and enthusiastic Queenslanders add up to far more than the necessary votes and seats required to elect Rudd Labor on November 24th.
There is something in this pre-election analysis, based on polling to date, but it seems to me that the groups are not wholly distinct. There is for example, probably not a huge gap, or one more apparent than real, between, for example, rusted on ALP voters and the so-called “Howard’s battlers”, and between the “Greens” and small “l” liberals. Perhaps the point is to look at these voters in terms of psychographics (lifestyle or culture subsuming values) rather than demographics. The prominence of the Queensland in the national political drama is not new given that it has the population and economic importance, unlike South and Western Australia, to play a central role.
The basis of such predictions are the polls and not the commentators. For example Bob Bowtell observes:
In the 100 or so opinion polls conducted since Kevin Rudd became leader and energizer of this coalition, its popular support has remained high and unwavering.
Its breadth and depth were unappreciated not only by the Howard government but also by their tame pet commentators and acolytes in the fading mainstream media.
And then goes on to agree that changing the government is “changing the circumstances of the country”:
Saturday’s election is a zero-sum game.
If Mr Howard wins against the odds, he will be entitled to claim complete political vindication for his record and his policies and to go for broke in the final two years of his Prime Ministership.
I suppose “going for broke” in so far as the new Senate will allow him, given that ACT voters might change the status quo immediately in that chamber. But should Rudd win:
. . .it will be a vote for serious, fundamental change by an electorate that is not impressed by the national outcomes of the past decade.
And it will underly the symbolism of the Mayor of Brisbane opening the Liberal and National Party campaign launch. To use a boxing analogy, which I believe for many reasons is inappropriate, I wonder whether the Liberal Party will be able to pick itself off the floor. They might have to reinvent as much as rebrand, and so in this prospect it was entirely appropriate for Howard to echo the thoughts of Menzies in 1942. I assume here that reference was prescient, not ironic. By contrast the remarkable feature of the Labor Party has been its resilience, and that I suspect has a lot to do with the rusted-on Labor voters down the generations.
Rudd is not expecting the Ruddslide, or that is what he says. Peter Marin reports him saying at the recently concluded National Press Conference:
“Whoever wins this on election on Saturday will win by a nose. This is tighter, tougher and nastier than many people in this room think.”
Of course, as we have come to expect, journalists do not it seems get to ask follow up questions. I suppose that Saturday night will reveal how tight, tough and nasty the election really was.