Arise Julia Gillard, the Tim Cahill of politics
Forgive the analogy but this is the first time I’ve covered an Australian leadership spill from South Africa while holding a vuvuzela. But if Julia Gillard succeeds in her 11th-hour leadership coup it wll be the most inspired last-minute substitution since Timmy Cahill came on in Kaiserslauten against Japan in the 2006 World Cup. Let’s watch those two goals again. Ahhhh.
There’s a consensus in politics that last-minute leadership changes reek of desperation. But this one confirms the cold reality that Labor probably cannot win under Kevin Rudd. It’s likely that the party has research which is deeper and richer than any of the published polls showing the situation is even bleaker than that - that Labor definitely cannot win under Kevin Rudd. This would explain the speed with which so many members of Caucus in key factions such as the NSW Right and Victorian Right have swung behind Gillard to form what looks like a mortal anti-Rudd bloc.
The two areas of greatest weakness for Kevin Rudd are the Julia Gillard’s two greatest strengths. They are communication and policy implementation - kind of crucial in politics, needless to say.
Rudd is a very poor communicator. He has admitted as much himself. Gillard in contrast is a terrific communicator. Her recent performance on The 7.30 Report, just two weeks after both Rudd and Abbott faltered on that program, showed why she is the most capable interviewee in the Parliament, and the strongest policy advocate.
Rudd’s second chief weakness goes to over-promising and under-delivering. His mismanagement of the ETS, where it was laughably downgraded from the greatest moral challenge of all time to a side issue which might be looked at next term, was an unrecoverable cock-up. So too his handling of the mining tax, especially his abysmal defence of the use of $38 million in public money to fund an advertising campaign, the very practice he labelled a “cancer on democracy” when the conservatives were in power and spruiking WorkChoices.
Gillard has been one of the few ministers who has consistently delivered on policy. She has had her problems with the Building the Education Revolution school spending program but she has admitted those problems. And most voters are balanced enough to realise that they have only affected a minority of the projects. Her biggest success was to stare down the teaching unions to implement the MySchool website. Where Rudd’s record is one of abandonment and vacillation, not just on the ETS but on asylum-seekers, the 2020 Summit, childcare and so on, Gillard’s is one of delivery.
The other thing Gillard has got going for her is that she comes across as genuine, wheras poor old Kev with his fair shakes of the sauce bottle and his faux-blokey “shitstorm” lines looks a bit confected and put-on. The public and the media feels a degree of warmth towards her which Rudd does not enjoy.
Rudd spoke strongly at his press conference just now and atempted to wrongfoot Gillard’s candidacy by claiming a popular mandate as PM. “I was elected Prime Minister by the people of Australia to do a job,” he said. “I intend to do that job.” The problem with Rudd’s assertion is that it presumes he is still popular, when all the polls show that, increasingly, he is not.
If Rudd goes it will be a stunning political humilation in an astonishingly short space of time. He’s faced an opposition which more often than not has looked like a rabble, with three leaders in as many years, and no major policies to show for it. Today they’re on the cusp of victory, due solely to the uselessness of Kevin Rudd. This from the guy who was almost the white man’s Obama in his Kevin07 incarnation, sweeping away 11 years of conservative rule, looking like he’d set himself up for a minimum two terms and possibly even three off the back of his solid 2007 win.
Labor was facing a shocking defeat. Julia’s last-minute substitution just might change everything. Anyway - I’m off to Mbombela Stadium. My tip - Australia 1, Serbia 0. And come on Germany!
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