Monday, April 25, 2011

Aping the Monk

While cruising the interwebs this afternoon and trying to avoid the temptation to blog about Jim Wallace (remembering, of course, Grog Gamut's third rule of blogging) I came across an interesting article on the Sky News website.

It appears that Mark Arbib was on Sky News yesterday and said the following: "Tony Abbott has provided a decent model for John Robertson to follow. Keep it simple."

There can be no doubt that Tony Abbott has been effective, at least so far as poll numbers are a barometer.

I've lifted the below graph from Wikipedia

From this article: Australian Federal Election 2010

Between the 2007 election and Abbott becoming Opposition Leader, the Coalition didn't make a great deal of progress in terms of their primary vote. Labor leaked some voters (as first term government almost inevitably do) but certainly very little had changed since July 2008, and certainly not enough to give the Coalition much hope of victory at the next election.  

At the point Abbott was anointed, the Coalition was a mess over the ETS, and Labor was looking pretty solid under Rudd.  Abbott's "Oppose EVERYTHING" strategy looked a little clownish, to say the least.

Since then, it's fair to say that Labor have played right into his hands.

Grog recently posted a most amusing list of people who Labor are presently at war with.  Suffice to say, it is a long list.

Federal Labor have, to their credit, tried to DO STUFF.  The problem with DOING STUFF, especially where that stuff is divisive stuff, is that you're going to piss people off.

This is politics right in Tony Abbott's wheelhouse.  Federal Labor played to his game plan, and before anyone knew it, Abbott had almost everyone that Labor has upset under his wing, listening attentively to his tell them that he knew how they felt, and wouldn't it be better if they let him run the show.

Abbott has made a huge amount of ground, to the point where the 2PP is presently 54/46, a roughly 10% swing since Abbott took the reins.

The important point is that Abbot was only able to do so because of Labor's approach.  Labor gave Abbott a look-in by upsetting a LOT of people, and then (incredibly) changing horse mid-stream, meaning that Abbott (of ALL people) was made to look reliable.

What I'm wondering is whether the NSW Coalition going to give NSW Labor the same look-in.

Answer? I doubt it.

First up, Robertson comes with a similar reputation to Abbott.  He's tough, he's aggressive, he'll "take the fight to the Coalition".

But the NSW Coalition has come to power in very different circumstances to Federal Labor.

Federal Labor blew in in 2007 on the back of the incredible popularity of Kevin Rudd, the disaster that was WorkChoices and the electorate being generally pretty sick of John Howard. The win was decent in size (2PP 52.7 to 47.3, seats won 83 to 65) but by no means overwhelming.

The NSW Coalition comes to power on the back of one of the most comprehensive and humiliating victories in Australian history (2PP 64 to 36, seats won 69 to 20).

Put simply, the Coalition is going to have to do little more than avoid falling over its own feet to ensure a win in 2015.  Any improvement will be lauded, and just about any fault will, in some way, be sheeted back to Labor.

If they're smart, the Coalition will spend the next 4 years governing cautiously, avoiding upsetting any more people than are absolutely necessary, and generally just spending time getting the job done.

In 2015, they will look around and ask the electorate "So - which bunch do you want governing?  Us or them?" Their win will be smaller, but it will almost certainly be a win nonetheless.

The Coalition will most likely govern sensibly and sedately, meaning that Robertson will probably be as effective as most people (myself included) thought Abbott would be.

Everyone expected Abbott to flap around like an idiot, make a whole lot of noise and generally do little good.  Of course that is exactly what happened, but luckily for him he found an audience for that.

John Robertson is unlikely to be so lucky.

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