Now the word “marginal” has been redefined by the ALP
Julia Gillard could not be looking forward to Parliament resuming next week. Well may she relish another round of hand to hand gender combat with Tony Abbott. But there are two other blokes she has to deal with and neither of them is yet to be declared a misogynist.
One is obviously Craig Thomson. The other is just as obvious - Kevin Rudd.
There may be no man in Parliament who has unwittingly inflicted more political damage on the Gillard Government than Thomson and his former corrupt employer, the Health Services Union. But there is no man in Parliament who harbours a greater desire to deliberately cause political damage to Gillard herself, than Rudd.
Both are problems of Labor’s own making and yet the PM shows no apparent sign of having a strategy to deal with them.
If Craig Thomson is charged, as has become a possibility following the show-trial police raid of his central coast home this week, the situation for the PM becomes more complex.
It will be harder to defend Coalition attacks that the Government is relying on a “tainted” vote. The presumption of innocence won’t matter politically – despite the obvious offence to the voters of Dobell that they be denied a voice in Parliament for the remainder of the electoral cycle.
Then there is the release of former Labor MP Maxine McKew’s book next week.
It may be an old story, but the suggested revelations of Gillard’s real involvement in knifing Rudd in 2010 will again publicly test Gillard’s integrity and credibility against that of Rudd.
The Gillard camp clearly has no idea how to deal with the former PM – other than a vague plan to crush him, before he crushes her.
That would be a fine, albeit crude strategy to adopt except for one problem.
Several weeks ago, the NSW Labor party secretary Sam Dastyari delivered some grim news to NSW Federal Labor MPs who are on margins of around or under seven per cent – which is a lot of them.
In fact there are 12 seats on or below seven per cent. There are another four on margins not much more than that including Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Environment Minister Tony Burke.
Dastyari, according to one marginal seat MP, told them bluntly that the party was so cash strapped that all campaign resources would be shovelled into seats it knows it can hold and needs to – Jason Clare’s seat of Blaxland being one of them.
The MP was told that the party didn’t want to repeat the election campaign mistakes of Queensland where resources were spread too thin across all seats and instead was going to sandbag its future crop of leaders.
In other words, many NSW MPs are now being told that they are on their own. It’s every marginal man and woman for themselves.
It’s hardly surprising then, that the one resource that some of these MPs know they can get for free is Rudd.
Gillard’s camp may be oblivious to what has happened to Labor’s vote in Sydney over the past five years, but local MPs aren’t.
When Abbott turned up to an ethnic Chinese event in Rooty Hill last week – deep in the heart of Labor’s seat of Chifley held by Ed Husic – it was part of a strategy that has been in play by the NSW Liberals for some time.
They have been quietly working away at stealing Labor’s other true base – the ethnic vote - since the 2007 NSW State election loss. And they have been very successful.
At the last federal election, the ethnic booths in south west Sydney seats such as Watson, Banks, Barton, McMahon and even in Reid and Werriwa in the greater west, got smashed
There were reported swings of more than 20 per cent in some of these booths covering ethnic communities of Chinese, established Greek and Italian communities, and newer migrant groups.
Labor MPs such as Husic and Daryl Melham (Banks) know Rudd’s appeal among some of their constituents.
A year ago it may have been true that Rudd had been inviting himself to tea just to cause trouble. It is now the other way around.
The reason is simple. Rudd is popular among ethnic communities. Many don’t understand why he was rolled in the first place and don’t identify with Gillard’s politics.
The irony of the Gillard strategy to try and kill Rudd off is that they also kill off one of Labor’s most effective campaign assets.
While there is a valid argument that Rudd should be brought back into the tent, Gillard will never sanction it, as it would be too much of a threat to her own leadership.
In any case, the prospect of Rudd being happy to throw away that baton in his backpack and be used in this way is not just unlikely but improbable – even if it were to deliver him a moral victory in the end.
The way he has been treated by his former Cabinet colleagues has guaranteed it.
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