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

bad blood « Previous | |Next »
March 10, 2004

Politics should be about policies not leadership atmospherics. yet is often about leadership--eg., Simon Crean last year and now John Howard. Behind that shift lies the anti-government trend evident in the opinion polls since Mark Latham's replaced Simon Crean as the leader of the ALP.

The media froths and bubbles about leadership tensions in the Liberal Party from chance remarks, the story is off and running, the commentators have their say the story has legs and the Government takes a hit.

Interesting how it works, isn't it. At one level it is a nothing story since Costello just does not have the numbers. At another level it's about the bad blood sitting behind the surface. One moment it's lying beneath the surface hidden from view; the next minute it is the surface, though only for a moment or so.

Bad blood. It's one of the poisons of politics. It destroyed the political credibility of the Australian Democrats.

The leadership tussle is a little example that shows just how much politics is still about people, power and relationships:ie. who is to be top dog.

So politics is not just not about manipulating the media to market the message that the (whatever) party is on the job, on course, and going in the right direction. It's also about bad blood.

Nor should we forget that poisons just keep on working away. Eventually radical surgery is required to repair the dysfunctionality. The question is :'How do you prevent the dysfunctionality'?

Laurie Oaks in The Bulletin says that the latest media round of leadership excitement has little to do with anything Costello said or did not say and everything to do with Howard's changed situation. There is a sense of drift. He puts it this way: "Liberal MPs want Howard to pick up the ball and run with it but he seems to have forgotten how."

One way to prevent the political horrors is aggressive strikes at the enemy. Peter Hartcher decribes the strategy thus:

"Howard has given us a demonstration of his emerging strategy for holding power. The dominant behaviour is aggression - aggression in policy and in politics.
Howard and his Government have taken the initiative on two of the biggest areas of national policy, education and health, and challenged Latham's sincerity on values, specifically his concern over the so-called crisis of masculinity. Howard has launched these initiatives in a staccato that put the Government on the attack on three fronts and put the Opposition onto the defensive.
Within the dominant impulse to aggression is a more subtle plan. Howard's emerging plan is this: to accentuate the policy areas where the Government is perceived as strong, and to neutralise the areas where Labor is perceived to be strong."

The response by the ALP? Julia Gillard's immediate reply to the MedicarePlus package played with the politics of fear. Despite around $2.9 billion being spent on public health familes are going to be worse off. Most of the extra money will be taken you in administration costs. The subtext was that the public health system, which the working class had build for the last 50 years, will be destroyed. That is the politics of fear.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:52 AM | | Comments (2)


One has felt of late that there is no message to be marketed, Gary. When that happens, theres nothing left except the poisons.

We do have the neutralization of issues that may harm the Coalition in an election year eg., MedicarePlus.

Then we have positive policies such as the Free Trade Agreement with the US.

Not much else though.