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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

The deck chair reshuffles « Previous | |Next »
June 17, 2003

I found it hard to get enthused about the leadership turmoil in the federal ALP over the last week. It made no sense to me in terms of public policy (both contestants agreed on the little policy of the ALP that does exist). So the conflict must have had lots to do with the Byzantine factional politics that constitute the current ALP.

The best that can be said for the deck chair reshuffles is that it was an exercise in democracy. Caucus actually got to have a vote on its leadership a vote for once.

That is a giant step forward for the ALP.

The worst that can be said for the reshuffle attempt is that it amounts to self-destructive bloodletting by a political party that is party is divided, confused and pessimistic. The first step in renewal since 1996? Is that what all the stuff about policy ideas means? Renewal? It is difficult not to agree with the conservative

"None of these internal battles will change the public's perception of the ALP - regardless of who is leader. Crean was right about one point during this campaign - elections are not a beauty contest. They are all about policy - and the perceptions of policy.Crean may be announcing policy - but the perception still exists that they are a policy-free zone."

The ALP gets media attention for its leadership squabbles not for its policies. Howard controls the public policy agenda. So maybe the pathway forward to a policy-driven 21st century ALP is more bloodletting? Maybe the deck chair shuffles was about to showing the colours and seeking to tie up the votes of the uncommitted and the waverers. As Norman Abjorensenit argues, this is phase one of the battle. This phase is essentially a softening up process and generally favours the incumbent.

"Like an advancing army, however, it establishes a beachhead and stakes out ground behind the lines. It marks the end of the phony war and from that point on it is for keeps."

The anti-Crean forces are still there.

The personal aspect of Crean on Australian Story last night showed someone who was not a whinger or an attack dog. The program that Crean's background was a member of the professional governing class in Australia. It presented a different Crean---a warm, engaging personality who was relaxed with people, interested in people, caring about his family and loyal to his staff. But, as Tim Colebatch argues, despite being 25 years in public life Crean does not have a public persona that incorporates those human qualities. The publci persona is crucial: it is what we judge the politician one in a media focused politics. Howard, in contrast, has crafted a very successful persona.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:07 PM | | Comments (0)