Bernard Keane in today’s Crikey, contesting the Labor claims that all would have been rosy had it not been for leaks:
But Labor is in trouble. Its problems aren’t so much, as was suggested by some commentators, that it is being squeezed by the Coalition appeal to blue-collar conservatives on one side and the Greens’ appeal to inner-city types on the other — although that’s not helpful — but the party’s culture. As Guy Rundle has elsewhere pointed out, the growing absence of a core philosophy and its replacement by an assemblage of carefully-targeted micro-policies is not sustainable over the long term.
At best, you can win the battles but eventually you lose the war, particularly against an opponent like Tony Abbott who is more remorselessly negative and permitted by the mainstream media to get away with minimal actual policies on critical issues. Labor’s campaign foci of aiming money at Family Tax Benefit A recipients, appealing to the irrationality of outer-suburban voters and in effect campaigning against Rudd-era Labor was a collection of tactics masquerading as a strategy. And in the end it couldn’t even win the battles, let alone the war.
Worse, the deadening effect of this approach was to silence Julia Gillard, until late June one of Federal Labor’s most formidable communicators, and replace her with a mannequin usually capable only of repeating the day’s talking points. Forget the Ruddbut, the campaign trail was stalked by the Gillardroid. But if voters had wanted a mind-numbingly boring female politician with a glue-like adherence to talking points instead of a political philosophy, they would have made Penny Wong Prime Minister.
Only rarely did “real Julia” break out, and it had nothing to do with the fake “Real Julia” launched with all the dexterity of New Coke in the third week of the campaign. The Gillard on display when she fired up after the leak, or toward the end when fatigue made her less amenable to staying on message, was the real Julia, the one that voters liked, and Labor strategists’ failure to capitalise on that popularity must, along with their decision to dump the CPRS, remain one of the most mysteriously inept decisions in a year full of them from Labor.
Regardless of whether it goes into opposition or clings on to minority government, Labor must start fixing its culture, and start applying a reality check to the advice offered by the likes of Arbib, Bitar, Shorten and the other powerbrokers who have guided Labor into such a dire electoral position. It must also, somehow, bring in at the highest level some experienced strategists and media people who understand that effective political communication doesn’t consist of asking what Malcolm Tucker would do.
That seems about right to me.
Morris Iemma, who should know something about it, called for Karl Bitar to resign today.
It also seems bad timing that Australian Story tonight features a show on the “Labor powerbroker”, Paul Howes.