Tricky Times

In what might prove to be a symbolically prophetic portent, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the “First Bloke” have been forced to vacate The Lodge whilst that splendid residence undergoes urgent necessary maintenance. The question is: will they ever return?

It’s not a good look, the Prime Minister of Australia being kicked out of the official residence of the office, even if for relatively innocuous reasons.

But these are not innocuous times, and the poor imagery of Gillard being thrown out of The Lodge is unlikely to assist her in the real, hard grind of domestic politics.

Everyone knows by now — unless they have been in a salt mine in Siberia — that every reputable opinion poll in this country has, for the past nine months, consistently shown the ALP losing the next election in a landslide.

The only variable has been the margin: by between 45 and 70 seats, or by a swing of between about 5% and 7.5%.

The Labor Party is therefore very understandably jumpy; it has, however, created a number of rods for its own back.

Carbon Tax. Mining Tax. “Malaysia Solution.”

And, indeed, the leadership change last year in the first place.

In a culture of fundamental dishonesty, sleight of hand, and outright lies, the ALP secured government after last year’s inconclusive election — which nobody won — with an accord with Independents and a coalition agreement with the Communists Greens.

Now, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Gillard has been found out: her total unsuitability for the office she holds is on daily display.

On one level, it’s a shame; this is an extremely intelligent and capable individual who very simply doesn’t cut the mustard as Prime Minister.

But on another level, it is no surprise, because having collectively whored itself to any and all comers (no pun intended) to stay in office, the Labor Party is literally and metaphorically screwed — and it wouldn’t have mattered who was leading it.

Stink-bombs abound, from at one end the utterly useless Treasurer in Wayne Swan, who couldn’t sell alcohol to dipsomaniacs, to at the other, the time-bomb that is Craig Thomson and his alleged portfolio of credit card and prostitution issues that are working their way through a number of Police investigations.

And, of course, the disastrous little policy agenda.

Now we face “leadership speculation.”

Ironically, we face it for the first time; there wasn’t a word in public, in advance, about what happened to Kevin Rudd in June last year. It was silent, ruthless, and deadly.

Now though, the mutterers are a little less circumspect, and a little more forthcoming.

We know there is a change of leadership approaching in the ALP; it’s certain.

The questions are when, and to whom.

Re-enter Kevin Rudd.

Kevin 747 has never really abandoned the Prime Ministership; any analysis of his behaviour since his dumping can only conclude he is biding his time.

Which is odd, given his colleagues cerebrally and viscerally hate his guts: Kevin isn’t good at keeping people onside.

Indeed, as has been recorded in this column and elsewhere, when Prime Minister (and before and subsequently) he has treated his colleagues like absolute, complete and utter shit.

Now he wants them to re-elect him to the job.

Momentum is building for some sort of change in the Labor leadership: that much readers are entitled to believe.

But the question remains, “to whom?”

Movement behind closed doors sees support for Stephen Smith firming on the back of Gillard supporters who are beginning to realise, or have realised, that the change needs to be made but can’t bring themselves to vote for Rudd in a party room ballot.

It’s a bit like Crean’s numbers swung behind Latham to keep Beazley out in 2004 (to be fair, before Latham’s brain exploded in public). The idea is to use Gillard’s numbers to keep Rudd out, and Crean is a key ally, friend and lieutenant of Gillard.

Others look blithely at opinion poll questions showing great popularity for Kevin Rudd, and contemplate gambling on his return.

And should he return, the voting public would quickly realise why they began to turn against Labor in the first place — which is why the ALP made the switch to Gillard to try to head the deterioration in its support off.

Not that it matters. Not really.

As John Howard once said, the problem with the Labor Party isn’t the salesman (as noxious an individual as Rudd might be, or as useless as Gillard is), but the product.

Howard was talking, of course, of Kim Beazley and Simon Crean. But the problems with ALP policy are there for all to see.

Stripped of the soaring “Kevin ’07” rhetoric, the Labor policy program is a) a return to a discredited Whitlamite agenda, or b) sheer inertia.

One one level, it doesn’t matter who leads the ALP. But a change, there, is coming.

Which makes the moronic utterances today of a minor Queensland Labor backbencher — Graham Perrett in Moreton — all the more interesting.

This morning, Perrett solemnly promised to resign from Parliament if there was a leadership change on the bizarre pretext that such a change would be a betrayal of his constituents.

By this afternoon, it had all been hosed down, with a slant attached to the story that as Gillard was so secure in the Labor leadership it was safe to make such a declaration.

What a crock, to use the vernacular.

But there’s a prominent ALP numbers man and factional heavy — Graham Richardson — following this closely too, and as much as current Labor parliamentarians might dismiss him, people still talk to “Richo” and he isn’t one to let his tongue rattle around in his head for the hell of it.

And let’s not forget: this week Julia Gillard’s government, by all accounts, is set to have its carbon tax legislation voted into law by Parliament, and its “Malaysia Solution” knocked on the head by either or both of the Senate and/or the House of Representatives.

Both policies are utter anathema to the wider electorate.

We can safely say as much…nine months of consistent polling across multiple independent polling organisations cancels out the error in each other’s results.

Not that those results have been very dissimilar.

There’s a trigger point coming; it could happen tomorrow, next week or next month, but it likely won’t take any longer than that, and it might not even take that long.

There’s more to this, but tonight’s post is more about the background to what is coming and my immediate thoughts on that; feel free to add your own.

I will of course continue to post on the ALP leadership — after all, it’s a subject that won’t go away until after Gillard really has been evicted from her office.

And not just from The Lodge.

Politically aware types — even those openly or privately aligned to the ALP — know that.

What do you think?