SA’s whispering campaign has Adelaide by the balls
Things are reaching fever pitch in the City of Pubs Slash Churches.
The election that everyone thought was going to be a low-key shoe-in for Labor has turned out to be quite the ride.
There haven’t been any really sexy promises – there’s not enough spare cash around. There’s been a Liberal Party pledge to have a good hard look at a particularly pesky roundabout. South Australia’s one-way freeway might end up being a two-way freeway, which just draws embarrassing attention to the original decision to make it only go one way.
An upgrade here, a dull but worthy project there. But no crispy, delicious pork barreling, not really.
What’s made things interesting is the surprisingly eager reception of Liberal Leader Isobel Redmond by the punters, and the concomitant plummet in popularity of the hitherto adored Premier Mike Rann.
Ms Redmond started making inroads with her no-nonsense style, and people started to think it might not turn out to be another Rannslide after all.
Then, overnight and off the back of yet another poll, it suddenly looked like she could actually win.
Blood in the water, that was. And Labor was in there, helpless, flapping their arms and screaming “underdog status”.
All sorts started circling, looking for a kill.
During the year, you get the little political tricks. Judicious, vested-interest leaks. “Backgrounders” that remain backgrounders because they’re 73 per cent bullshit that no one wants to be held to. Anonymous tip offs in suspiciously familiar language, twisted statistics, and so on.
But when the frenzy begins, the practitioners of the political dark arts deploy their full forces. World-weary hacks all have stories about election time shenanigans.
What has surprised me as a relative newcomer – this is only my second election as a reporter, and the first time round I was still trying to tell my donkey vote from my ass – is the Machiavellian scale and complexity.
Late night, phone rings. An ex-Liberal has been speaking to an ex-Labor bod who in turn has been speaking to a non-party affiliated opponent of Rann. And each one of them is involved in numerous subplots. Whispers, rumours. Did I know this, this and this?
It’s juicy stuff, but it’s unprintable.
Phone calls continue – messages chink in to my voicemail as I’m force-fed more sordid details, my gossip-liver engorging by the day. Other hungry fish start to play media outlets off against each other.
“If you hint at this in the paper, then Radio Guy will make it a talkback topic, then Television Woman will pick it up and expand on it, then Bloke at Another Newspaper will go to town”… as though it’s all a done deal and the responsibility will be shared.
Or (when one side wants something printed about the other): “You can feel totally confident printing this as far as we’re concerned… we’re confirming it off the record… although we can’t say anything on the record and (implied) we’re unfortunately deeply unlikely to offer a helping hand should the Defamation Beast eat you for supper”.
Then there’s the condescending (when they just don’t want something printed): “I’m just worried you’ll get your (little) self in some legal trouble because I don’t think you quite realise what’s going on here”.
To the downright threatening: “If you print that about me there’s a high chance a third party will be so upset they might do something really really serious. There could be a tragedy.”
Meanwhile, on the surface, the pollies keep doing what they do best, claiming credit for things beyond their control, trying to score cheap points, repeating ad nauseum the things their wonks have told them play well. Rehearsing little phrases like military drills, never deviating from the Party plan.
At least the practitioners of the Dark Arts are more creative.
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