AN OBJECT LESSON in the dangers of politicians flagging the stupidity of the electorate has come back to haunt Bill Shorten, with a Galaxy poll in Queensland — the epicentre of a strategy to turn Malcolm Turnbull into a Coalition liability — showing federal LNP support now running above the landslide level recorded by Tony Abbott in 2013. Queensland was Shorten’s only hope to become Prime Minister. That hope, deservedly, has been dashed.
Whilst in many ways it is better at prosecuting raw politics than the Coalition is, it never ceases to amaze me just how stupid the ALP can be: and that wanton stupidity has, fittingly, rebounded on Labor with a vengeance.
Some weeks ago, the ALP’s alleged brains trust devised a strategy they thought was just brilliant: with an eye on the suave, urbane, inner-city Sydney-based Malcolm Turnbull, Labor decided that Queensland voters (and voters in regional Queensland seats especially) would find themselves with little in common with the Prime Minister; as the theory went, voters north of the Tweed would find the articulate and indisputably refined Turnbull a character they could not connect with.
The swag of seats the ALP stood to snatch in Queensland, according to this half-arsed plot, was significant, and provided Labor and its useless “leader,” Bill Shorten, could prise the Queenslanders away from the popular Turnbull, then government would be theirs for the taking.
What a pile of shit.
I alluded to this crack-brained scheme a few weeks ago, when elements within the ALP were urging Shorten to “pick a fight” to save his “leadership” and to give Labor a chance to win the looming federal election; at that time I made the observation that suggesting voters in outer suburbs and regional towns couldn’t connect to a figure like Turnbull was tantamount to an insinuation that people in those areas are too stupid to identify with an aspirational and entrepreneurial Prime Minister — and that as sure as night follows day, it would backfire.
Like a visit from the proverbial karma bus, it appears that that is indeed what has now happened.
A Galaxy poll of federal voting intention in Queensland has found a 9% swing, after preferences, to the Coalition in the nine weeks since the Liberal Party dumped Tony Abbott as leader: now ahead of the ALP by a 58-42 margin in the Sunshine State, if such a movement back to the government were uniformly replicated at an election, it would hold the 22 of Queensland’s 30 seats it won in 2013 with 57% of the two-party vote, pick up Clive Palmer’s seat of Fairfax, possibly Bob Katter’s seat of Kennedy (given it can be conclusively shown the Palmer United Party is the only thing that stopped Katter losing to the Nationals last time), and perhaps Lilley and Moreton as well.
Fully a quarter of the federal Coalition’s lower house seats are already situated in Queensland; on these numbers (and remember, Galaxy is among the more historically accurate opinion surveys), Turnbull could conceivably improve quite solidly upon even that.
The message gets worse for Labor, with 61% of Galaxy’s respondents agreeing that Turnbull has the best plan for Queensland, as opposed to a pitiful 14% saying that Shorten did; the same question, posed by Galaxy three months ago, elicited a 40-34 result in Shorten’s favour. It tends to suggest (and especially given the Government’s program under Turnbull hasn’t changed since he replaced Abbott) that the real issue is one of leadership — not policy.
And all of this has taken place against a backdrop of wider opinion polling that, in trend terms, shows Coalition support nationally running at almost 54%: a swing, albeit a small one so far, further toward the Liberal and National Parties based on their 2013 election landslide.
The perspective of Brisbane’s Courier Mail today, as it editorialises the false conclusions Shorten and Labor have drawn this year about their prospects in Queensland, is pinpoint in its accuracy.
Unless you belong to the cabal of ALP insiders or to the irretrievably rusted-on (but dwindling) band of Labor voters, it is impossible to argue that Bill Shorten, or Labor generally, has offered a single reason for people to vote for it aside from disaffection with the Liberal Party under its previous leadership.
That reason is now gone — and so is the cancer of the Credlin-Loughnane duumvirate, whose political “expertise” risked destroying the Coalition’s prospects and consigning the party to oblivion after a single term in office.
Without Abbott, the dastardly duo running things behind the scenes, and the cavalcade of dolts masquerading as astute advisers recruited for compliance with Credlin rather than any efficacy in executing political strategy, Shorten has been shown up as the empty vessel he really is.
And frankly, any political party embarking upon a “strategy” that is essentially predicated on the gullibility and stupidity of voters — to say nothing of the implicit accusation that Queenslanders are too unsophisticated to appreciate someone like Turnbull — beggars belief.
Aside from the shocking insult it lobs at everyone north of the Tweed, it ignores that fact that Labor’s last Prime Minister was worth well over a hundred million dollars, was a Queenslander no less, and was embraced by voters in 2007 in Labor’s best result in that state since 1990.
It also ignores the fact that Malcolm Fraser — probably worth more than Turnbull and Rudd put together — all but obliterated the ALP in Queensland in 1975, repeated the feat in 1977, and held up in Queensland tolerably for the Liberals three years after that.
The notion of wealthy people being spurned at the ballot box by the supposed uncouth rednecks of the Deep North hasn’t been true in the past, and it isn’t true now.
In any case, the fact these considerations were half-baked into an ALP election strategy at all speaks volumes.
Even under Turnbull, the Coalition is not invulnerable; readers know I believe the Prime Minister made what could prove a serious tactical blunder by not calling a pre-Christmas double dissolution election. The longer this term of Parliament runs, the greater the risk the wheels on the Coalition cart will start to wobble, if not perhaps come off altogether.
And a change in the ALP’s own leadership arrangements, which is certainly on the cards — even were it to an unreconstructed socialist like Tanya Plibersek — could change the political dynamic completely, and make it impossible to predict the outcome.
But for now at least, Queensland has signalled that it will not tolerate Bill Shorten as Prime Minister, and this aligns with the other Coalition strongholds of New South Wales and Western Australia also rushing back toward the Liberals, and even Labor-friendly Victoria and South Australia indicating solid movements in the Coalition’s direction.
The smack in the head this result doles out to Shorten and Labor is no less than they deserve.
It is a dangerous pastime for politicians to explicitly tell voters that not only are they stupid, but that their stupidity is the pivotal ingredient in strategic election planning.
Queensland, with its surfeit of marginal Coalition seats, was — on balance — Bill Shorten’s only hope to become Prime Minister.
That hope has been dashed, in a stunning repudiation of the strategy he and his party had cooked up.
One could indeed say the karma bus has paid Shorten a visit. It could hardly be regarded as unwarranted.