Sunday, February 11, 2007

Monday Politics

Seeing it’s an election year I have decided to deliver some weekly musings on the state of the union.

And what a day to start: Heavy Kevvy is the most popular opposition leader since... well forever.

I think that this will come as surprise to those who think Howard is a clever politician, with excellent foresight and judgment. Howard hasn’t lost touch as many suggest, he has always been a reactionary, tossed mercilessly by the tides of political fortune. His approach to the last ten years has not been to dictate the national agenda. His failure to counteract the rapid political ascendency of Rudd shows further proves his lack of foresight and good fortune. He hasn't taken Rudd seriously- yet.

It would seem that all it takes to prick the façade of good steady management is a viable alternative. Rudd hasn’t had to do or say much to get people to listen to him, and take him seriously. I think the major points where he has improved on the Latham legacy is to make every issue an economic issue. On the environment he makes the point that global warming will affect our future prosperity. On the lack of education funding- he says that we need to invest in human capital if we are to compete against the growing economies/ middle classes of India and China. He is making traditional Labor values economic issues, as they rightly are- and the benefit is that people with mortgages suddenly recognise the relevance of the Labor message to their lives. They couldn’t make the connection between interest rates and skills/sustainability with Latham. Now they can.

So what it has taken is not so much a change of substance, but a change of message. Rudd knows what to say, and when to say it. It’s the economy stupid Bill Clinton message all over again. I guess the real test for Rudd will be developing relevant and well conceived policies. The make or break moment will be the budget reply in May. From my perspective the strategy should be to get on the front foot right from the gun. His approval rating shows that people are listening at the moment- so when people are interested you have to take advantage of this interest. The time for image is over- and now the electorate will need some substance from Ruddy to stay interested. Howard looks stupid on global warming, stupid on water and stupid on war. A viable policy platform from Labor will be the icing on the cake.

I loved Lindsay Tanner on Lateline last week when he was asked for his reaction on John Howard describing himself as a ‘climate change realist’. Tanner noted Howard’s ‘practical reconciliation’ as an example of Howard using pragmatism as an excuse to do nothing. Coal gas sequestration, nuclear energy for Australia these ideas are not economically or practically realistic, but these are official climate change policy. So how realistic can he be? While revealing Howard’s dishonesty and trickery on one level, I can’t help but feel the fact that John Howard has largely done nothing over the last ten years is the reason people quite like him. He is a benign leader, and largely ineffectual. If you think of his major ‘reforms’- IR, GST, business taxation- they haven’t really achieved much in reshaping the political landscape. Even the so-called history wars appear to be bearing little fruit. So long live Howard’s so called ‘realism’- it equates to doing nothing, and people are beginning to grow restless.


Anonymous Phil said...

That an interesting perspective Timboy, though the Howard haters will no doubt argue that you are wrong and so will the Howard lovers.

And I agree with the facade thing. Latham did just that for a moment and showed hos weakness, Rudd is a different cat.

Howard's long tenure has been one of absence. That is the absence of a credible alternative. I'm thinking the public may have finally found their man.

5:17 PM  
Blogger timboy said...

Here's hoping

5:28 PM  

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