NSW Labor ready to campaign against itself
You have to hand it to the Labor spin machine.
While it runs around the Federal press gallery highlighting various views among the Coalition on climate change, it is preparing a desperate bid for re-election in NSW by dividing itself.
According to a weekend news report, the Liberal Party is preparing for a re-election campaign in which local ALP members of Parliament actually turn on the Government.
The logic goes that the Rees Government is so on the nose that local ALP seatholders will stick it to the Premier in an effort to distance themselves from the stench.
It will be a campaign which seeks to differentiate, to give the impression of distance between the toiling local backbencher who spends his/her time working on local issues, and the Government which actually created the mess.
The strategy will be based on the way the public views their local member, the state of local services and whether the NSW spin machine can keep the message local.
Everyone knows it will be difficult because it’s a strategy born of desperation. But there are some useful campaigning precursors to use as yardsticks.
When unpopularity in the late 1990s rose to new levels at Australia’s big banks as the institutions struggled to recoup the margin lost to non-bank providers on home loans, an interesting customer phenomenon was detected in surveys.
With the public venting their spleens as fees rose and branches were closed, banks discovered a loyalty and sympathy for the local counter staff.
In other words, it became clear that while people were very, very unhappy with bank policy, they knew the local person behind the counter, call her Ethel.
And while they might rant and rave about fees, charges, interest rates and closures, they all sympathised with her.
“I hate the banks,” they’d say, “But Ethel’s okay.”
It will be that community sentiment that Labor will try to capitalise on at the next State election.
The community will be fed up to the back teeth with premier Nathan Rees – or whomever has the support of Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi on March 2012 – but they may just be unwilling to take it out on the person who hands out the awards at the local school.
It’s an audacious, last-gasp, attempt to save the people who have either created the mess over 16 years in government, or have idly sat by on the government benches for most of the 16 years while it has been created.
This won’t be the local member “forgetting” to include the ALP logo on his campaign signage, although that will no doubt form part of it.
This will be local members brawling with the premier over decisions that have impacted poorly on the community he or she supposedly represents.
This will mean local members actively picking fights over train timetables, clogged roads, overdevelopment, a creaking health system and the chronic lack of policing – all the stuff that drives people nuts.
It will mean complete disharmony amongst caucus as members fight to stick the boot into the ministry.
You’d love to be Nathan Rees, or his successor(s), wouldn’t you?
So the next time Labor’s spin machine “highlights” splits in Coalition ranks, bear in mind that it is actively considering taking dissention nuclear.
Forget the adage that a house divided can’t rule itself, this will be members asking to be re-elected because they are divided. It won’t be a case of papering over cracks; it will be campaigning on creating the Grand Canyon.
Don’t blame me, blame Nathan Rees LIKE ME, will be the catch cry.
There are serious structural weaknesses to this last-ditch effort, but the ALP will gamble that the general public is so disconnected from Macquarie Street that they will really only focus on the local stuff and how their local member is standing up for them.
Expect Barry O’Farrell’s Liberal Party to forensically trawl through Hansard to link each and every local members to the unpopular decisions by the Government.
Clearly, many of the ALP members who will suddenly decide to campaign against certain Rees policies will have voted for them.
And in many instances – particularly Sydney based seats—it will be abundantly clear that the local member helped create the mess in which the State currently finds itself.
O’Farrell will pull out all stops to ensure everyone in the State knows just who was responsible for 16 years of mismanagement.
And where will Kevin Rudd be with his message of Coalition disharmony?
The man who campaigned before the last federal election that the buck stopped with him on every State problem in the country will no doubt steer well clear of Sydney.
He will presumably be even now preparing a busy February and March 2012 diary that gets him to Perth as much as possible where he won’t ever utter the words: roads, infrastructure or hospitals.
Suddenly the buck will stop very squarely with Nathan Rees.
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