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ALP: bloodletting « Previous | |Next »
November 26, 2004

The bloodletting in the ALP sure is going on for a long time. Too long.

The media flows are saying that everybody wants a piece of everyone: the feds want some blood from the state, the states are only willing to bite some flesh not give blood; the right wants to blow things up; Latham's friends are miffed by the positions being given to his enemies; those with positions and influence in the party are annoyed with the leader's autocratic style, caucus is divided etc etc.

A light moment:


For the intertextuality of the Leunig image, see this image.

No-one, it seems, is willing to cut anyone any slack in the ALP these days. Forgiveness is out. Payback is in. They're even back to talking about leadership changes, disunity being death and dead parrots. What is not being talked about is caring for disadvantaged Australians. Equality has long been forgotten.

Meanwhile the wine will continue to flow freely amidst the jubilant laughter of staffers of the Liberals and Nationals, who will be dining on the pavement tables in Manuka and Kingston next week. At some point they will need to remind themselves about heeding John Howard’s warnings about the dangers of hubris and triumphalism.

Labor's electoral loss was not really an issue of leadership. Mark Latham as leader is not responsible for the failures of the past three elections. Would it not be more fruitful for the ALP to have a debate about the relevance of the Third Way adopted by the ALP? There should be such a debate given that the ALP had largely opted out of the economic debate in favour of social policy.

There is one happening. The debate has moved on from the 1990s concerns of civil society versus a statist bureaucracy to the one about values and the suburbs. As Christopher Scanlon argues:

"Latham is essentially following the [Third Way] script in courting the "army of contractors, consultants, franchisees and entrepreneurs. He is attempting to appeal to groupings who traditionally vote conservative and have regarded the labour movement with suspicion, which has been returned in kind. That's thoroughly consistent with the third way."

The ALP lost the last federal election in the suburbs, and it will not be able to return to government without winning back the lost suburban voters.

The ALP did try this to do this. Remember its talk about the aspirational new middle class in the outer metropolitan seats? It had forgetten about the suburban PAYE section of the middle class who once formed Labor's base? The danger with this strategy, as Scanlon points out, is that the ALP may alienate its traditional supporter base, while becoming indistinguishable from the conservatives. The electorate is left with a choice between a pale imitation of the right, or the Real McCoy.

In the last election Australia voters opted for the Real McCoy observes Scanlon. Scanlon says that it is time for something new. "As a strategy for winning government, the third way in Australia is a dead dog."

Is it? What is the something new? That is what the ALP should be discussing instead of tearing itself to bits.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:14 AM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (3)

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Mark Bahnisch has a very interesting blog on this in Troppo Armadillo