Monday, August 9, 2010

Take Nothing For Granted

While some have criticised Tony Abbott’s campaign launch in Brisbane yesterday as lacking in substance or vision, right now that approach remains a smart strategy. There’s no need for the opposition to offer any bold agenda at a time when the bold agenda of the current Government has come into such ill repute. The combination of the mismanaged economic stimulus programs, the mining tax debacle, the shock change of leadership, along with the Cabinet leaks, the Rudd soap opera, and the Latham sideshow, adds up to a struggling campaign for Labor. In this context, it would seem that the best thing for Tony Abbott to do is to keep his mouth shut, smile and nod politely, and look as if he knows what he is doing while his opponents continue along the path of self destruction.

Of course, that will only work so long as Labor continues to struggle, and while the Opposition clearly won the first two weeks of the campaign, I believe that week three should be declared a draw. Tony Abbott has been looking increasingly confident as the opinion polls have been swinging his way. At yesterday’s launch, he was surrounded by supporters including former Prime Minister John Howard, promising not much more than to reopen the detention centre on Nauru and to fill us in on the rest of his plans after he gets elected. Contrasting himself with Julia Gillard, he said “Isn’t it great to lead a united political party with a deputy I can trust, a predecessor who’s a friend and a former prime minister who’s a hero!”

The funny thing is that former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd may yet attain hero status for the Labor Party. Last week, Mr. Rudd was brought back into the fray for Labor, and as awkward and uncomfortable as it was, it was also a major step forward for the Government. The Rudd Factor hasn’t been entirely neutralised as an issue, but at least it has been reigned in to some degree. The embarrassing internal leaks have stopped, and finally it seems as if the whole team is rowing in the same direction. The government is finally shifting the attention away from its internal affairs and onto policy matters, especially the economy, and while there have also been problems associated with policy, no one can deny that the economy is strong.

This has been born out with the latest poll figures showing a bounce in support for Labor. It’s not much, but it’s something, with the Newspoll showing Labor ahead on the two party preferred figures at 52% to 48%. That’s a clear improvement on last week’s 50/50 split, while
the Galaxy poll now has Labor in front at 51% to 49%. It’s not enough to ensure victory, not only because of the margin for statistical error, but also the fact that it is possible to win more than 50% of the popular vote and still hold less than 50% of the seats in Parliament. But for Labor it is at least a move in the right direction.

The only certainty is that with less than two weeks now remaining until polling day, nobody can take anything for granted.

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