It Didn’t Take Long: Labor Campaign Bus Careens Toward The Cliff

A STORY in today’s issue of The Australian confirms the materialisation of the reality many have expected: the wheels coming off Labor’s campaign. Saddled with a leader whose very presence is enough for Labor MPs to quit salaried ministerial posts and seats in Parliament, it comes as no surprise.

Remember those TVCs? You know, the ones broadcasting free character assessments of Kevin Rudd, as provided by his parliamentary colleagues?

This sort of thing, for example. This too.

I bring them up again because there were those at the time — not just among the loyal core of the Labor Party that would excuse its leadership anything, but in the press, the wider polity and the community — who said such brazen negative election campaign techniques were tantamount to gutter tactics.

At the risk of saying “I told you so,” it seems the Liberals — and Rudd’s dissenting caucus colleagues — were right all along.

The Australian is reporting today that simmering tensions inside the Labor camp are bursting to the surface, and it seems Rudd’s style and deep reservations about the authenticity and durability of his “popularity” are driving the disquiet.

One aspect of this latest development that I find intensely interesting is that all of the “sources” for the story are anonymous; nobody has had the…nerve…to attach their names to the criticisms they so clearly seek to air publicly.

And this, in turn, is a delicious irony, and reflective of the subterranean, nameless leaking and backgrounding Rudd himself is said to have engaged in for much of Julia Gillard’s tenure as Prime Minister, and especially during the 2010 election campaign.

The Australian‘s report does note, however, that its sources were supporters of Gillard.

Nonetheless, its substance — the veracity of which I have no problems accepting — should give floating voters contemplating a vote for the ALP pause for thought.

A “deep dislike” of Rudd permeates the ALP, despite higher support under his leadership.

Labor’s campaign “has not started well” and is “losing momentum.”

And the report references material published in the Fairfax press last week, citing reports of complaints from Labor staffers who “hated” working for Rudd and were being called upon to work at odd and irregular hours.

It all sounds very much as if nothing has changed and that Rudd, indeed, has neither changed personally nor learnt anything from his ill-fated first stint as Prime Minister.

The rest of the material in The Australian‘s story — dealing with the details of day-to-day operations in the ALP — will come as little surprise to anyone.

And it’s not as if the boiling internal hatred of Rudd is all Labor has to contend with, either.

The ALP made a powerful enemy earlier this year, with its undemocratic and unprecedented assault on press freedom, and its corresponding attempt to regulate the media industry with measures redolent of the Stalinist approach to stifling debate.

Foolishly, it openly and aggressively singled out the Murdoch press, which — unsurprisingly — returned fire yesterday, with the now-famous front page from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

Even the Fairfax press — usually less hostile to Labor, if not overtly friendly — reported a fact-check of Labor’s claim of a $70 billion “hole” in Coalition costings as scoring a rating of “Pants On Fire” on the sliding scale of political porkies being bandied about.

There is growing evidence that Rudd’s “fixes” on border security and the carbon tax are creating bigger problems than those they were designed to solve.

His Treasurer’s “economic statement” is little more than an economic joke.

And it certainly hasn’t helped the ALP cause that assistant Treasurer (and member for the western Sydney seat of Lindsay) David Bradbury was caught out yesterday in a flagrant attempt to distort and misrepresent comments by shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey on interest rate movements to the extent that his remarks bordered on libellous.

In another exquisite irony, Bradbury’s conduct in that radio interview (which I beg readers to listen to) is a concrete example of the Labor tactic of stating its grand pronouncements about the state of the world, and then ridiculing dissenting views as completely invalid.

Even when that tactic backfires as it did spectacularly on Bradbury yesterday.

And that in turn brings us full circle to Kevin Rudd — a master of the “state and ridicule” method — and the type of campaign he appears hellbent on running.

The type of campaign now so obviously fuelling the unrest The Australian is reporting on.

I just wonder what will happen to the Labor Party if — in, say, a fortnight’s time — its position in the polls declines by two to three points, and it finds itself facing defeat on a comparable scale to what unquestionably awaited Gillard had she fought this campaign as Prime Minister.

At the very least, it’s a short walk indeed to a scenario under which Kevin Rudd begins to lash out at journalists and opponents, and that would spell the end of Labor’s campaign — and terminate its period in government once and for all.

But if Labor somehow manages to win this election, one thing seems clear.

Ominously — for those disposed toward voting for Kevin Rudd — it seems the warnings that his tenure as Labor leader will be extremely brief irrespective of the election outcome would appear to be astutely judged.

I have written before that Rudd’s explicit purpose in being resurrected as leader is to win an election; no more, and no less.

It was always going to be a monumental ask, and the past couple of days suggest that the election is already slipping from Rudd’s — and Labor’s — grasp.

But were he to win, it seems increasingly clear that he would, indeed, be overthrown once more; it would be no less than he deserved, of course, but if I were a swinging voter looking to vote for Rudd I’d feel cheated if that was the ultimate outcome.

If you want to vote for Kevin Rudd, look closely at his senior ministers, because one of them will be Prime Minister by Christmas if Labor wins.

The writing is already on the wall, and the bus headed rapidly over the cliff.