The Gillard question
Another week, another set of bad polling numbers for the Prime Minister. This time it’s not so much about support for his party but something that has the potential to be a distraction, if only a niggling one: his leadership.
The great lesson from the years of leadership speculation that dogged John Howard is leaders need a plan of attack when there is a clear successor-in-waiting. For the sake of party stability but also to be straight with voters, they need a strategy for handling the leadership questions. So what is Kevin Rudd’s?
John Howard developed a formula of words which he used whenever he was asked about the leadership: that he would continue to lead as long his colleagues wanted him to and as long as it was in the best interests of the Liberal Party. Malcolm Turnbull would say the leadership was in the gift of the party room.
The likelihood of Julia Gillard leading Labor into the next election is so wildly remote it’s barely worth considering, but a steady rumble of leadership speculation about whether Rudd might stand aside at some point in the future could be an annoying distraction for the government. The polls this morning show voters are taking an a bit more interest in Gillard as a potential leader, and if the trend continues the questions won’t go away. Malcolm Farr wrote in today’s Daily Telegraph:
... Ms Gillard has made almost daily declarations of loyalty to her leader and rejected talk of her being asked to bid for the leadership herself.
But her support across parties is significant.
Some 30 per cent of Labor voters and 35 per cent of Coalition supporters want the Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister to lead the ALP and the Government.
Pressure on Mr Rudd is increasing as he battles electoral dissatisfaction over his abrupt, and scantily explained, decision to drop pursuit of an emissions trading scheme, the centre of his climate change policy.
In February, a Newspoll survey showed Mr Rudd with a commanding 25-point lead over Ms Gillard as the preferred Labor leader - 57 per cent to his deputy’s 32 per cent.
Last weekend Mr Rudd’s lead dropped to just five percentage points, 45 to 40 per cent, in a spectacular turnaround, and the closest Ms Gillard has ever come to Mr Rudd’s standing.
Questions about Rudd’s leadership were almost unthinkable six months ago but it now appears they could become an issue, and just a matter of months from an expected election. If they persist, the question for Rudd is: how is he going to handle it?
What would be his best plan of attack? Over to you.
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