Just how crazy is the Rudd challenge?

The Labor Party’s capacity to talk itself into a crisis is quite amazing. Here they are, tracking reasonably well in the polls, and what do they decide to do? Yes, have a leadership spill. Though there have been rumblings of discontent over low satisfaction ratings for Kim Beazley, the trigger seems to have been a Newspoll (not on their site yet) published in The Australian on Tuesday which found 52% support for a Kevin Rudd/Julia Gillard team, compared to 27% for the current Kim Beazley/Jenny Macklin team.

But political parties should be very careful of polls like this. There is a very loose relationship between leadership polls and the vote. Howard was behind Keating as preferred PM just prior to Keating’s landslide loss. And there is no guarantee that a new leader will deliver support.

Back at Catallaxy, I noted that a Morgan Poll around the time of the last Labor leadership change suggested that Labor’s suport would improve by 9.5%, when in fact there was no change. And if we look at the table in The Australian, Rudd has barely improved his standing in the electorate since the Latham changeover – up 4 percentage points to 28%, 1 ahead of Gillard and 4 ahead of Beazley. The masses aren’t exactly calling for Rudd to take over.

Perhaps this is because they don’t yet know him very well. But there is no guarantee that they will approve of him more when they do. He’s brighter than Beazley – this is a man who confuses Michael Oakeshott rather than Karl Rove with someone else – but he is less likeable. As a fellow nerd, I have tried hard to like Rudd, but the most positive feeling I can muster is respect for his intellect – and even that has taken a battering with his recent weak arguments on ‘market fundamentalism’ etc. He’s going to remind everyone of that annoying smartarse in school who was first to answer all the teacher’s questions.

Whoever wins, I reckon John Howard has an early Xmas present. Rudd wouldn’t challenge if he didn’t think he had a reasonable chance, so even if Beazley hangs on we’ll all know that even much his own party doesn’t think he is fit to be PM. If Rudd wins, the ALP will have as leader a man without the common touch.

36 thoughts on “Just how crazy is the Rudd challenge?

  1. It’s extraordinary! It’s like December 2003 all over again – perhaps 2007 will play out like 2004 (but without the Latham fireworks)?

    To quote a gag from Private Eye: ‘Bloody Christmas re-runs!’

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  2. Fully agree Andrew. Moreover, I believe Labor has very little chance of winning the next election regardless. If Rudd had any sense, he would let Beazley win back a few seats and narrow Howard’s majority, and then try for 2010. Jack Strocchi – are you reading this? Change of Labor leadership was not a force majeure event for our $50 bet!

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  3. Face it, australia isnt’ going to elect a labor federal governement & 7 state labor governments. Australians like the safety of having two complementing forces, forging a middleroad between the centre-left and centre-right forces of labor and liberal.

    Not until some of the states fall too the liberals will federal labor have a chance, regardless of the choosen leader. Rudd’s timing will be all wrong in 2007, but aiming for 2010, this may be his best shot to stand up now?

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  4. As an active ALP member, I get heaps of non-political people tell me that Beazley has to go. Just yesterday I was at my travel agent’s, after chatting with them and telling them I am involved in the ALP, the first thing they said is that they don’t like Beazley. I respect Beazley but basically no non-political person has told me they like him, as a counterbalance to all the people who tell me they don’t like him. Rudd and Gillard aren’t perfect and they are a risk, but if nobody took risks then there would never be any progress. But I think Rudd especially has alot going for him, his impressive experience outside the party (unusual for the ALP) and his language skills!

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  5. Utterly bizzare. Finally getting a chance to claw ahead with Industrial Relations, Iraq, Nuclear, Global Warming, Energy and Water etc. and the ALP shoot themselves in the foot. I’m stunned. Rudd cannot win the next election – and now I suspect neither can Beazley. Rudd seems to have a pleasant tone of voice but no heart, and as Andrew says he’s without the elusive common touch. A good footsoldier, but not leadership material. Should be disturbing but somewhat fascinating watching the blood spill.

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  6. James – Yes 2003 was a mistake (although we don’t know how ALP would have gone under Crean or Beazley, can only speculate). So we took a risk once and we made a mistake so we should never ever take a risk again? Using that logic, it’s like saying that nobody should ever start their own business because once some guy did and it went bankrupt.

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  7. Rudd will win overwhelmingly and go on to win next year’s election convincingly. In the election after that he’ll beat Costello, after which the Libs will turn to Julie Bishop. She’ll probably lose her first election as leader but will be retained and go on to succeed in the election after that.

    Rudd will then retreat into academia where his smart-arse persona will actually be an advantage.

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  8. The federal gerrymander favours the nationals and liberals and is basically illegal, a vote in the city does not have the same value as a vote in the country. There is no mass state=labor federal=liberal type of philosophy.
    If the famers went smart and ate their breakfast, they would team up with the greens and revitalise the land, improve indigenous relations and make better and more plentiful organic food.

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  9. I suppose the choice is whether Beazley can win in 07. If not – surely they need a two-term strategy – hence a two-term leader. Frankly I was amazed that Rudd did not get promoted back 04 or 05.

    My view on the polls is that the last 3 or 4 elections shows that an Opposition needs to be 6 to 8 pts in front on the eve of the poll to stay in front in such a good economic climate.

    Beazley

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  10. “If the famers went smart and ate their breakfast, they would team up with the greens and revitalise the land, improve indigenous relations and make better and more plentiful organic food.”

    Shorter Parkos: “Greens and Parkos are smart, while farmers are dumb and don’t know what is good for them”.

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  11. More organic food and higher rainfall from replanting in Australia would be good for all. Coordinated ecotourism involving sustainable farms would bring in tourist cash. The Germans love their Latvian farm suana holidays.
    The farmers have kept on expanding past Goyder’s line Boris and keep on expecting to be bailed out when it gets dry. They were warned, and some decades it does pay off.
    Equal gerrymandering and true democracy would see the coalition setting up office in the outback for a long time.

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  12. Generally agree. I think Julia Gillard is a more interesting Deputy than Jenny Macklin but it would be more sensible for Labor to stick with the current team. I don’t think Rudd is a possible PM.

    Its limitless selfish egos of politicians driving this one. Good of the party – my butt.

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  13. You cannot serious believe that Bomber has the ‘common touch’?
    Kevin Rudd is the only available option and Beazley’s time ended long ago. The party has simply been too gutless to push anyone else forward. Until now. Okay, it’s late in the day, but so what? Under Beazley, Labor would never win in 2007. Under Rudd, the odds are unknown and like Latham, Howard is going to have to re-learn just who Kevin Rudd is as a leader and direct opponent. Howard doesn’t learn very quickly, that much we already know, so clearly, the chances of winning 2007 are that much better than sticking with bumbler Beazley.

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  14. Andrew – can you think of any consequences for education policy after a change, or should we expect a continuation of the Macklin approach? Any insight into who might get the education portfolio?

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  15. further indication politicians do not understnd statistics.

    A newspoll shows a 4% drop in their primary vote yet no-one can come up with a reason.
    I can’t remember the last poll where the ALP were not winning comfortably and they want to change leaders!!

    Disagree if Rudd is leader in that he will get a honeymoon.

    How the memory falters.
    Latham has been proved right on economics, tighter budget, Iraq, Welfare, Education and even environment.

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  16. Jeremy – I don’t think Labor would change its education policies. They have already put out a reasonably sophisticated higher ed policy, and it would only piss of the left needlessly to adopt some of the more sensible ideas that Emerson has been promoting.

    Homer – Most Opposition leaders get a ‘honeymoon’. But it rarely lasts.

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  17. “Latham has been PROVED right on economics, tighter budget, Iraq, Welfare, Education and even environment.”

    How was this PROVED? Did he have a chance to implement his policies and see through the consequencies?

    Besides in my view there is no such thing as right or wrong policy. It all depends on your political views and your situation.

    The reality is that his policies led to a big ALP defeat and subsequent crisis in which ALP gave Australia the biggest entertainment of the year. That’s the only tangible consequence of his policies and actions.

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  18. Andrew, it says a lot about the Labor Party’s desperation that Kevin Rudd’s impressive mandarin speaking skills make him a potential election winner for the Labor Party. Having spent much of my university years doorknocking marginal seats, I suspect that health, education and economic policies will be more important to the average voter than Kevin Rudd’s mandarin skills.

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  19. “The federal gerrymander favours the nationals and liberals and is basically illegal, a vote in the city does not have the same value as a vote in the country.”

    There is no malapportionment (what happened in Qld under Blejke-Petersen) no gerrymandering (what happens in the US) in the Federal Australian House of Representatives.

    The last bit of slight malapportionment was removed in 1984, when Hawke removed the requirement (that Fraser introduced) that all electorates over a certain size could not have more electors than electorates under that size (from memory).

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  20. Malapportionment must be difficult to keep a track of considering the population growth and rural to urban shift in some areas There are whole suburbs springing up in a matter of a few years, population densities changing in central areas with apartments, and ghost towns and mining and tourist booms in the outback.

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  21. It’s nice to talk about Labor’s problem as though it wasn’t ours.
    The lack of rigour in the posts above sheds more light on ‘the problem’ than the discussion itself. We’re just bloody hopeless at politics. Unlike sport and most things in life, politics remains the domain of amateurs and dilettantes. You have to be a trained and qualified lawyer to interpret the law, but you can be a complete dill and get the job of making the law. In fact in Australia, it’s obligatory. The lawyers who make it into politics succeed because they dumb down to fit into the party mould.

    The discussion ought to rise above Labor and Liberal. They are what they are because our system is stuffed. Why is there no discussion about fixing the system? Because our schools didn’t dare to teach us critical thinking. Mediocrity is injected into our thinking patterns right from when we were bubs. We’re frightened of every leaf that falls. That fact is supported by the obsession with security, a factor behind home ownership figures, which in turn makes us even more conservative. Howard plays to the mortgage belt, even though he’s aware of the great damage he does to the collective mind of citizens.

    We have the problem, not the politicians. We have the sole say whether they are a class act or a bunch of nongs, as we have at present. Only we can change that reality. It’s not happening in this blog. This blog sounds more like a party branch tea break discussion. Very polite, all the right noises being made, but Jesus how ****ing boring and irrelevant.

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  22. “That fact is supported by the obsession with security, a factor behind home ownership figures” Ah yes, two-bob capitalists, all of us. I remember that phrase from the forties spouted by that ALP loser John Dedman, preaching against home ownership by members of the working class. Reminds me of Cheryl Kernot’s dummy spit on her first election night as an ALP candidate for Dickson. She virtually spat out the word “aspirational”, accusing her electorate of being full of such voters. Heaven forbid that the “wurkers” should ever get above their place in the true order of things!

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  23. I like the irony of the guy bemoaning the lack of critical thinking himself indulging in the use of the first person plural.

    ‘We’ – the refuge of Hairshirt Hamilton, Hugh Mackay and all the other ‘social theorists’.

    A tea break discussion, hey?

    You’re under no obligation to be here, pal. Why don’t you run along to a more vigorous blog, and leave us to our own devices.

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  24. Boris, the ALP economic policy was a lot tighter than Jonny’s spending spree!

    I think most people will have forgotten this leadership struggle when they vote like they did in 1996

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  25. Jeremy bore out my claim of boring and irrelevant. I was invited onto this blog by the promise in Domain’s masthead – ‘Australia’s best political blogs’. If this is Australia’s best, it explains a lot, including my rapid withdrawal from your tea room.

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  26. Homer,

    You can’t be so naive, can you? It is what people deliver that matters, not what they promise.

    With the constituency they have, I doubt they can run a responsile monetary policy, regardless of what their leaders think or promise.

    That is not to say Howards spending spree is to my liking. But they only do it when they feel they can afford it. They are not irresponsible.

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  27. Enjoying your first extra hour of sunlight Boris ?

    “But they only do it when they feel they can afford it. They are not irresponsible. ” But people are used to this spending now – they don’t expect it’s just going to disappear when we can’t afford it ie the boom ends. Do you think all of this spending is sustainable, productive, efficient, socially desirable ?

    Rudd seems to me likely to be at least as careful as Beazley in economic matters. Beazley / Rudd what an awful choice. How come Gillard is so much to the fore? where is that impressive Penny Wong?

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