BILL SHORTEN is a solitary percentage point from the worst preferred Prime Minister rating of any Labor leader in the history of Newspoll, based on numbers out today; as the ALP consolidates its apocalyptic standing under “Billy Bullshit,” likely replacement Anthony Albanese appeared on the ABC’s ghastly #QandA programme last night in what can only be described as a showcase of his leadership claim. Labor is a mess. The time to act is nigh.
When it comes to Newspoll — published in The Australian today — those in the know in Canberra sit up and take notice; and when it comes to the Labor Party, the fact Bill Shorten has now been strongly outpolled as preferred Prime Minister by the undecided vote will do nothing to assuage rumours and leaks of a leadership change that persist weeks after we broke news in this column that a change was in the offing.
Before we get into the machinations of the past 24 hours, I should like to note that the information I received about a change in the Labor leadership came from an impeccable source, and was validated in cross-checking with another; despite one highly partisan reader trying to force me to reveal who these people were (moi, being dictated to by some stool pigeon of the Left? I. Don’t. Think. So), I have no intention of identifying them beyond noting (as I did early this month) that the leak did not come out of Shorten’s office. At least, not directly, if — if — that’s where my sources learned of it.
But I have clarified several times since then that whilst the information I was given stipulated a November resignation by Shorten, politics was and is a fluid business in which things change and evolve even if the eventual outcomes do not: and even if Shorten remains Labor’s “leader” on 1 December, it will be as a fatally marked man, a dead man walking, indeed, and whilst he might survive November, his political lifespan will by then be predicated solely on borrowed time.
It will not necessarily mean my information was wrong, especially if Shorten’s head is lopped off in the weeks immediately thereafter, but those on the Left who take a purely literal view of such things merely illustrate the flat Earth thinking that has seen Labor lose five of the last seven elections, and technically lose a sixth in 2010.
In any case, Shorten’s deputy — and the man chosen as their leader two years ago by the ALP rank-and-file — Anthony Albanese appeared on the ABC’s #QandA programme last night in what can only be described as a leadership “audition” in the same sense Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull put in a similar showing in the lead-up to his own move against Tony Abbott for the Liberal leadership some months ago.
But a little more on that later.
The Australian is carrying Newspoll results today that confirm Labor’s election-losing position yet again, and reveal that on the question of who voters prefer as Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull’s lead has now blown out to a whopping 49% with Turnbull (64%, up 3% in a fortnight) now heading Shorten (15%, down 3%).
With the solitary exception of a survey in November 2003 in which Simon Crean polled 14% as “preferred PM” against John Howard (and which precipitated his removal the following month) Shorten’s result in this Newspoll is the worst by any Labor leader on that measure since Newspoll began surveying voter sentiment more than 20 years ago.
Alarmingly for Shorten, there is ample scope for his ratings to fall further. On this occasion, he has been outpolled by the “undecided” vote (21% prefer this as Prime Minister to Shorten’s 15%). It is clear Labor is in a hole going nowhere on the watch of its incompetent incumbent dud.
I’m not going to pull the Newspoll figures apart in overly great detail beyond making the observation that the 53-47 two-party finding it makes of Labor’s likely electoral fortunes under Shorten probably understates the Coalition’s actual current position; the average of all reputable polls since Turnbull’s ascension is near 54% on this measure, and on the basic rule of thumb that half of the “Others'” primary vote of 10% and a quarter of the
Communist Party’s Greens’ 11% would flow to the Coalition on preferences, my extrapolation is that Newspoll has rounded down a 53.3% finding in the Coalition’s favour.
It means Labor is on track, at best on current trends, to suffer a repeat of the belting inflicted upon it in September 2013. With Shorten in charge, the propensity of the final report from the Royal Commission into the unions to damage Labor (even if Shorten is untouched) and the ALP’s defective strategic approach continuing apace on Shorten’s watch (see here and here), the prospect of a further blowout in electoral intent toward the government is obvious.
Labor’s position is a double-edged sword, and whilst the settled (average) eight-point two-party lead it maintained whilst Tony Abbott remained Prime Minister has quickly been replaced with an equally settled seven point deficit with Turnbull at the helm, I have been adamant that not calling a double dissolution for next month and translating his advantage into a fresh mandate could well prove to be a tactical blunder on Turnbull’s part; the longer he leaves it in the new year to go to the polls, the greater the danger some or all of this new-found advantage will be squandered.
But the only conceivable way Labor can take any paint off the Coalition now appears to be the leadership change we’ve heard so much about behind the scenes; Shorten, quite bluntly, is never going to win an election against Turnbull (and would probably have lost — narrowly — against Abbott too, although that’s a more speculative call open to much debate).
To this end, Albanese’s performance on #QandA last night is telling. Those who missed it should spend the hour watching through the link provided at the top of this article.
It had everything: lofty, soaring rhetoric. An emphasis on “national values.” An extollation of the virtues of his “diverse electorate, the rumours of Albanese’s switch to a seat less at risk to a Greens onslaught notwithstanding. The presentation of Australia as a “global microcosm.” You name it, Albanese checked off every requisite box for the presentation of an alternative face for the ALP in a clear showcasing of his pitch to assume his party’s leadership.
And if anything were going to save Shorten (or at least prolong his agonising, if useless, tenure), it would have been the events of the past fortnight.
Turnbull’s response to the terrorist atrocity in Paris has been tepid, confused, and reeking of appeasement as it seeks to eschew hard action against ISIS in favour of endless talking; the public debate over GST reform is eliciting ridiculous nightmare scenarios from the ALP that are left publicly unchallenged by the government; and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is probably more in tune with public sentiment than Turnbull is with his calls for military strikes against ISIS targets to attack “the toxin (of Islamic terrorism) at its source.”
None of this has put a dint in Turnbull’s standing on any measure. He merely pulls further ahead in the estimation of the voting public. If you were Bill Shorten, you’d be asking what in hell he’d done to deserve it.
In the end, the metaphor of Shorten writing off his deceased mother’s car by crashing into a row of parked cars in inner Melbourne last week neatly sums up his “leadership:” and I would add that if reports of spilt coffee in his lap being the trigger for the collision in the first place, then Shorten should be prosecuted for traffic offences for good measure, if not for the look of it to set an example to others.
He won’t be, of course…
The bottom line is that Shorten is finished — completely, utterly finished — and this latest finding from the reputable Newspoll, long regarded as the most accurate of all the reputable surveys, merely shows that his time is well and truly up.
Labor is in a mess. It faces electoral Armageddon. It is time for those around Shorten to act, and to put this despicable excuse for an alternative Prime Minister out of his misery once and for all. A Labor leadership change mightn’t win it government next year, but it will almost certainly halt the carnage and conceivably win Labor a swag of seats currently held by the Liberal and National Parties.
Come on down, Anthony Albanese. You know you want to. Your party’s members prefer you over Shorten by almost two to one. You are ready and waiting. And your performance on the ABC last night proved it.