Allan Takes Aim Blog

Julia: first opinion poll PM

Posted on: 12 July 2010


 First posted The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday, July 6 

Australia, apparently, has experienced a big surge in demand for poster size pictures of its new Prime Minister Julia Gillard. No doubt people want them to replace the Kevin Rudd picture they were using either as a dartboard or as a cover for a hole in the roof of their garden shed.

Some might say “only in Australia” You might not, but can you think of a better use? And some people might think also that changing a prime minister on the basis of bad opinion polls also deserves the tag “Only in Australia.”  Nonetheless it is true: Julia Gillard is now Prime Minister while Kevin Rudd has become the proverbial feather duster.

On taking the job, however, Julia Gillard adopted the role as a reluctant taker of the position and could have attempted to prove her reluctance by offering Rudd a post in her cabinet. The fact that she hasn’t not only suggests something else to me it also serves to confirm my view that she was never reluctant.

Indeed I am sceptical of reluctant takers, male or female, particularly when they are politicians as it has long been my understanding that when people stood for parliament did so because they thought they knew what was wrong with the country and, given the chance, would like to be Prime Minister so that they could make things right. As an observer of Australian politics for the past forty years, I can say honestly I’ve never seen this happen.

Occasionally during those years however, aspiring politicians have asked me how they should behave if elected. My answer: if and when you try to make things right, be strong of voice but not strident.

Today however, my advice would be, that if ever they climbed to the summit of the Political Mount and became Prime Minister, they should be careful of ambitious party backroom boys who want to exercise prime ministerial power without the responsibility of holding the post. If they didn’t, particularly because getting rid of a PM without an election is now deemed acceptable, they would face the strong possibility that if the backroom boys didn’t like what the opinion polls were saying about them, it is likely that they, too, would become a feather duster.

That said, and much as Prime Minister Gillard has a good line in rhetoric denying she is beholden to no one (not even voters?), whether she likes it or not, she owes the back room ‘Bovver Boys’ of the NSW Labor right faction a very big debt. And she owes it because, had they not set in motion the actions that led to the destruction of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, she would not be Prime Minister today. 

Now I don’t care what you think of Rudd. Let me be frank: although I didn’t much care for him,  I respected him and his position as Prime Minister of an alleged democratic country. But what kind of democracy is it that allows political thugs like the ‘bovver boys’ to remove a prime minister and pass it off as being in the interests of the nation.

History shows that political thugs, whatever their country, have never been known to care about anyone’s interests but their own. But isn’t it strange that when their contemporaries in other countries do what they do, in a classic case of pots calling kettles black, the ‘bovver boys’ have the gall to call them thugs.

That apart what makes their act of political thuggery more heinous is that it was carried out on the basis of bad opinion polls. When results of the polls were published they were capped with headlines that pandered to the cynical view most people have of politicians. And because people are too lazy to make an effort to understand politics, these headlines become their political stance. Of course, after the next poll that stance could change.

Although a Celt I make no claim to being gifted with a sixth sense, but in my column “Government by opinion polls” published in The Chronicle, Tuesday 18 August last year, I predicted opinion polls were on the way to becoming the method of electing Governments.

Sadly, it seems I was right.

The Chronicle, Canberra, for the best community news. Published every Tuesday

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