08 August, 2010

Memo to Labor: Own the Debate

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that a lot of Labor’s problems, ever since 1996, is that they accept the Liberal narrative instead of setting their own.  Events this weekend only reinforce how much Labor needs to take control of the agenda.  The Liberals are determining the story because they have gall and no-one is calling them out on it.

We’ve had Tony Abbott saying that Bronwyn Bishop is very popular among seniors.  If any politicians or media had a memory longer than a pot-smoking goldfish with Alzheimer’s, then one of them might say,
Oh really?  Bronwyn ‘kerosene baths in nursing homes’ Bishop is popular with seniors?  The woman who was demoted to the back bench long before the Libs lost government?  She’s their big asset this year?

Then today, in the Liberal campaign launch, Abbott proudly proclaimed that fifteen members of his front bench had previous ministerial experience in the Howard government.  He said it like it’s a good thing that they were all part of the team that was rejected three years ago.  Most oppositions need to wait for the smell of the previous government to wear off them.  Abbott is trying to turn it to his advantage. 

Later, John Howard was interviewed and asked about what he thought of Tony Abbott’s chances with the electorate – as if the man who didn’t just lose the last election, but his own seat as well, has any credibility on the subject of the electorate’s mood.  And yes, the comeback to that is that Kevin Rudd was dumped by his own party in his first term, but regardless of who wins government in two weeks, it’s pretty likely that both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard will still be in Parliament. 

Finally, there are all the Liberal crocodile tears over Rudd’s removal as PM.  While it was indeed, a desperate, knee-jerk reaction, if the Liberal party had had a single metaphorical intestine between them in 2006, they would have done the same thing to Howard when he offered them the chance, and they might have had a better chance in the 2007 election.  Such was their obedience to Howard, they would rather have lost the election than the leader.

If Julia Gillard were Jon Lovitz being Michael Dukakis, she might say, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy.”  But she is, because the Liberals have the gall and Labor needs to get some.  The “real” Julia has shown no discernable different to last week’s Julia.  She and Labor need to start setting the agenda instead of following it.

By the way, for some brilliant election coverage and commentary, Grog’s Gamut cannot be recommended highly enough.  If Grog doesn’t come out of this election with a gig on a major publication or a parliamentary staff, then there’s no justice.  Then again, I sometimes suspect there’s no justice.

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