SA election: A party that can’t run itself…
Bruce Hawker is the director of Hawker Britton and is advising the Rann Labor Government on its campaign.
We are now at the business end of the South Australian election campaign and the contest is going down to the wire.
After years of internal division the Liberal Party had - until this week - managed to develop an appearance of unity on the back of Mike Rann’s problems following the Michelle Chantelois allegations.
With four leaders in four years and little more than a veneer of unity following an acrimonious leadership spill involving former deputy leader Vickie Chapman and current leader Isobel Redmond, the Liberal campaign settled on a “small target” strategy.
This is presumably because Mike Rann was on the back foot for the first time in 15 years and the the Liberal strategist clearly believed that their best chance was to focus as much attention as possible on Rann and as little as possible on the inexperienced Redmond.
Until this week the Liberal campaign team had managed to quite effectively run this “small target” strategy by exposing Opposition Leader, Isobel Redmond, to a minimum of media scrutiny.
This approach included taking the extraordinary step of refusing a second debate with Mike Rann in the regional centre of Port Pirie despite previously agreeing to a debate there.
Other “small target” tactics included going for several days without releasing a policy and having Redmond leave the State for more than 24 hours ostensibly in order to be briefed on Kevin Rudd’s health reforms.
Then last Friday they may have gone a bridge too far. The troubles came when the Liberal campaign team refused to allow former Liberal leadership contender, Vickie Chapman, onto the ABC TV programme “Stateline” to debate veteran Labor minister John Hill.
This gave Labor an opportunity to reprise the claim that Chapman, who last year lost to Redmond in a leadership spill, was being gagged.
Why all this stung the Chapman camp, which is factionally opposed to Redmond, is not clear. But sting them it did, and on the Monday of the last week in the campaign Chapman dealt her Liberal team a nasty blow.
At a press conference, which she and Redmond attended, Chapman was twice asked whether she would rule out challenging for the leadership even if Redmond won the election.
And twice Chapman refused to give a straight answer. When she was approached again a little later she again refused to rule out a challenge.
It took until that evening for Chapman to issue a statement of support for Redmond - but by then the damage had been done.
The issue is still alive and Labor has started running TV and radio ads pointing out that Liberal voters may vote for Redmond but could easily be getting Chapman as soon as the Liberal parliamentary party meets.
The lesson for the Liberal strategists was that their obsession with micromanaging Redman and the other front benchers led to an internal backlash. Their strength became their weakness.
A mistake in the first week of a campaign is unlikely to be remembered. A mistake in the last week is unlikely to be forgiven.
We will know on Saturday night if this mistake has denied the Liberals their momentum just as Mike Rann hits full stride in the dash for the line.
Don’t miss: Get The Punch in your inbox every day
Get The Punch on Facebook
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…