Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Campaign Mistakes Were The Symptoms, Not The Disease

It appears that the Federal Labor Party is still experiencing a certain level of denial over its near death experience at the recent election. Party General Secretary and Campaign Director Karl Bitar yesterday addressed the National Press Club delivering his assessment of what went wrong. In his view, the electoral disaster was brought about by a combination of the following factors. 1. There was a widely held expectation that Labor would win easily, allowing many who would normally be loyal supporters to exercise a protest vote without worrying about the outcome. 2. There was disappointment over the performance of the first term of government which he said had resulted from voters holding excessively high expectations. 3. There was a perception of disunity prompted by the internal leaks about cabinet discussions and the intrusion into the campaign by former leader Mark Latham. And 4. The campaign itself stumbled on three specific occasions, which were the so called “real Julia” debacle, the embarrassing climate change citizens’ assembly proposal, and the promise to complete the Epping to Parramatta rail line which was widely seen as a pathetic and cynical grab for votes.

While all of these factors did indeed play a significant part in the election catastrophe, it is plain that they are in fact the symptoms, not the disease. If voters had high expectations of the Rudd government, who was it that raised those expectations? Who was it that promised to deliver an education revolution, fix hospitals, and rescue the climate? Who was it that not only failed to make good on these promises, but also botched their efforts to rescue the economy by building school halls that were too small, installing insulation which caused houses to burn down, and mailed out cheques to dead people? If there was a perception of disunity, might that not have been because the party had just executed the overthrow of its own leader just weeks before calling the election? That was no perception; that was real disunity, exposed for the world to witness. Blaming Mark Latham is an act of scape-goating that would embarrass even Pontius Pilate.

There appears to be absolutely no acknowledgement whatsoever that many of the voting public felt cheated of their right to vote either for or against the man they believed they had elected to be Prime Minister. There seems to be no recognition that Kevin Rudd’s popularity began to fall only after acting on the policy advice of the very same individuals who later blamed it all on him and got rid of him. Now, I’m not saying that Mr. Rudd had no problems or that he would have necessarily won the election. There’s no real way of ever knowing that. But the fact is that a significant number of Australians were left with a disgusting taste in their mouths over that whole affair and many of them would have changed their vote because of it. And yet, Karl Bitar can only point to what he considers “mistakes” in the campaign, despite the fact that he was the campaign director.

Or was that somebody else’s fault too?

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