Thursday, January 27, 2005

left field

Well, I think it's possible to put a positive spin on the ALP's leadership debate. Tim (whose comments still seem to be off) reckons the whole thing was phony as, but I think it was good phony. The Australian public knows exactly why Beazley is in again; we know he's the ALP leader of last resort, a puppet for unity. A big puppet with a big heart for the big brown land, sure. But a puppet.
And the defacto ballot we've just seen did one important thing--it showed the public that the ALP has a credible alternative stock of contenders. Yeah, credible, because the length of time they took before announcing their intentions not to run suggested they were in with a serious chance.
Just because in the end their colleagues indicated they think Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd need more time to grow does not mean that they were wrong to flag their leadership aspirations at this time. And like Kate Lundy said on the 7:30 Report last night, there doesn't need to be a formal ballot, because there was obviously an informal one, and the message is clear: Beazley can't afford to sit on his would-be laurels, he has serious competition. Competition's a good thing, right? The party would seem like so much more of a big fat bore if not even one other Labor polly had put up their hand and said, "I'm interested, actually."
What was more interesting, and from a marketing POV more important, was how Rudd and Gillard handled it. Rudd was okay, though he did seem to stretch it out a bit too far, to the border of credibility. Gillard was better, though she has to watch that paranoia. I don't agree with Saint over at backpages that it was 'political suicide', but it definitely doesn't pay to appear paranoid. Just looks bad. Feel it, sure. She's probably justified, but unless you can prove it, zip it. Still, as Mark Bahnish said at backpages, at least she was honest. And I think she salvaged it well in the end, turning it into a call for "inclusion".
And what was also interesting was Beazley's response to Gillard's comment. He's already unsettled by her, isn't he? And he should be. Close your eyes for a minute. Gillard/Rudd 2007. You can see it, can't you? Gillard for modernity, Rudd for conservatism. Good mix. Rudd/Gillard is okay, but not as good because it's too conservative. Gillard/Tanner would be supermodernity, and I think that'd scare the Oz voters. As for the chance, imho.
And yeah, Gillard should be Deputy, because Macklin seems to wear the CreanTM Cloak of Invisibility, but that would probably scare Beazley too much. Frankly I wish Gillard would do a no-nonsense, relatively painless, surgical excision of Beazley in about a year's time. But what she's just said about unity/stability/white-anting etc kinda rules it out, huh.
Anyway, the upshot for me is this: Gillard and Rudd have told us they're contenders and now they're going to have to show it. But the past few weeks have at least given them an incredible amount of profile.
And the party should take a leaf out of John Howard's book (just this once): turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. "Trust? We'll see about that." snarled the Rodent in 2004. So Labor: reframe the whole "disunity" thing into a positive. This is where Rudd was crazy to say the ALP was a 'god-awful shambles'. Mudd sticks. Labor would be better off dwelling on the positives. Start with Icarus Mark Latham--Chris is right, Latham needs to be sent off with dignity. It's embarrassing and feels cruel that he alone is being blamed for the loss and essentially ostracised for it. At his press conference, he was clearly a man in pain--physical, psychological, both.
And reframe the "disunity" thing. Unity for the sake of unity is pointless. Sticking with Beazley for the sake of unity is pointless. Disunity can also be seen as vital, healthy, exciting. They should all go read some Edward de Bono!
If Gillard and Rudd develop well over the coming year(s), then the ALP might be smart to swing behind them instead. If the public sees that it makes sense, they won't care so much if there's another leadership spill. They'll understand.
Gillard obviously has great potential, she's so firm, calm, sensible and rational (notwithstanding the moment of apparent paranoia). Her mission should also be to turn up the warmth factor. She can seem a bit too cool at times. That kitchen photo was the wrong direction.
And in reframing Labor, the party needs to constantly recap and summarise its achievements for voters with a short attention span. Turn the negatives into positives or at least explain/reframe them. And then market it as a party of modernity.
So say what you will about the 'turmoil' of the past few weeks, I reckon it was a good and necessary thing. You could even argue that in contrast, the Liberals seem really bland and boring, the way they all fall into line behind the Glorious Leader. Where someone like Costello has to make like he has no leadership ambitions that might interfere with the Glorious Leader's probable plans to become the longest-serving PM ever....
Anyway, we're off to the beach. God, it's good to be home.