With a primary vote of 27% in today’s Newspoll, the ALP with Julia Gillard at the helm is sinking faster than a leaky SIEV. The poll was taken before the carbon tax roadshow began in earnest on Sunday, and we have yet to discover whether that will make things better or worse.
Gillard’s promise to keep on explaining for as long as it takes struck terror into my heart, but when I remembered that I’m still the boss of the remote I felt better.
A new tax must be the hardest thing for any government to sell to the electorate, but when you’re a government with figures in the death zone, you’re well and truly up against it.
I watched a little of Q&A last night, with Gillard as the sole panelist. I did note that the PM appears to have taken some criticisms of her vocal style to heart: the trademark drone seemed less likely to induce narcolepsy in the listener, and that unfortunate habit of repeating a few words over and over and over and over and over and over…well, that wasn’t quite as in evidence, though I admit I only watched for ten minutes or so.
So with those improvements why did I still switch off?
There’s no logical answer to that. It’s visceral. I cannot listen to or watch this woman, anymore than I could listen to and watch that rabid anti pornographer Gail Dines, albeit for different reasons. Gillard come to us with a dark history, one that does not necessarily reflect on the substance of the current carbon tax, but one that seriously reflects on the morality (or lack of it) that has dogged this debate within the ALP. Then there’s the wider circumstances of Gillard’s ascension to the leadership.
Just how much this bloody history will interfere with Gillard’s selling of the carbon tax remains to be seen, but it’s not looking good. In what sounded a little too much like desperation, Bob Brown the other day acknowledged that the PM is a “brilliant negotiater.” This may well be so, but those skills are not evident in public, so aren’t going to do her much good. Selling is not negotiating, and requires a different skill set if it’s going to be successful.
Gillard hasn’t successfully sold herself as a credible leader. Her party didn’t manage a mandate. What she apparently does have in spades is a blind determination to keep going no matter what. This is not always a positive attribute. As the wise ones tells us, real wisdom is knowing when to fight and when to lay down arms and accept that it’s over. There is little more pathetic than someone who does not recognise when their time is up. John Howard is a good example of overstaying one’s welcome, when at the end of his reign he just would not go, no matter who begged him to bugger off.
Granted, for the ALP to change leaders again at this point would seem on the face of it suicidal. But perhaps it could just work, if Gillard co-operated and graciously stood down and no blood was spilt. What have they got to lose, one wonders? Gillard signifies nothing positive or good. And that’s the problem. What she signifies cannot be overcome by any amount of negotiating talent or selling skills.
All political parties should take note: short term measures that seem like a good idea at the time, such as dumping the PM overnight without warning anybody, can have long term and disastrous effects.
It is an elementary fallacy that to conclude that because in a democracy politicians represent the people therefore politicians are representative people. The closed-off life of the typical politician is much like life in a military caste, or in the Mafia, or in Kurosawa’s bandit gangs. One commences one’s career at the bottom of the ladder, running errands and spying; when one has proved one’s loyalty and obedience and readiness to endure ritual humiliations, one is blooded into the gang proper; thereafter one’s first duty is to the gang leader. J.M.Coetzee, Diary of a Bad Year.
Gillard is a politician and nothing else. She doesn’t represent anything non-politicians can identify with. We can’t connect with her in any real human way. This isn’t to say she isn’t human and humane, but those aspects of her character are obliterated by her carefully contrived political persona. Hence the “real” Julia campaign, doomed to failure from the start because anyone who says they’re being real now when they weren’t before has a profound credibility problem that isn’t going to go away.
Gillard’s had a “closed-off life,” and she isn’t representative of anyone outside of the political arena. But where she so dramatically breaks away from Coetzee’s depressing assessment of politicians is that she abandoned her first duty to her gang leader and overthrew him. The combination of the closed-off life and treachery at that level is a killer. The childish wish to put those unfortunate events behind her and move forward has not been granted. No matter what else she does, she will always be remembered first for the night she took down Kevin Rudd.
For Gillard, like so many of our politicians on all sides,it’s all about them and it’s all about their party allegiances. It’s not about us. It’s not about the people they’re elected to represent. Coetzee’s right. Representative democracy is an elementary fallacy, and nobody demonstrates that as well as Julia Gillard.
- Newsy Video: Will Australia’s Gillard Survive Carbon Tax Backlash? (englishblog.com)
- Carbon tax is no answer for all these questions (thepunch.com.au)
- Abbott’s political life on line (theage.com.au)
- Get real on tax pain, Gillard told (heraldsun.com.au)
- Gillard’s figures don’t add up for pensioners (theage.com.au)