I have mixed feelings about the unceremonious dumping of Kevin Rudd by the federal ALP. On one hand, Kevin Rudd was failing miserably to sell his governments achievements and communicate with the public, on the other the way that a sitting Prime Minister was executed because of a few months of bad opinion polls could set a bad precedent.
Is it possible that internal party strategists and pollsters and bi-weekly opinion polls have killed off Australia ever having a long term Prime Minister like Howard, Hawke or Menzies ever again? Are we heading to a trend similar to NSW where cosmetic makeovers in a leadership change replace any attempt to govern better in the long term?
In the last 3 years the Liberal Party has gone through 4 leaders. The two leaders after their election loss, Nelson and Turnbull were constantly hampered by poor opinion polls. Media analysis of their policies (or lack there of) style and ideology was sidelined for the simple two party prefered and prefered Prime Minister opinion poll. Politics had become a football game, nice and simple with a score and clear winners and losers.
The euphoria and popularity of Rudd was never going to be sustainable in the long term, and the ALP should have known this. Politicians are not naturally “popular” and shouldnt be expected to be, they are there to govern. Even long term governments, such as most recently the Howard government were very rarely hugely popular. Howard rode high in the prefered PM stakes when he was against ineffective Labor leaders like Beazley and Crean, but this soon changed when he faced a stronger opponent like Latham and Rudd.
Credit to the Liberals, they showed that you can turn votes around and win elections from strong oppositions by more than just a cosmetic change of leader. The Labor Party should have come up with a plan to work out why people were disenfranchised with the government, worked to appease their concerns and communicate the governments successes more effectively. Instead it gave up, treated the electorate as mugs that would change their votes purely because of a different face in the top job.
Governments should govern for the sake of improving the country, not as a game just to stay in power. If governments continue to dump unpopular leaders then no long term reform would ever be achieved, the hit in opinion polls would scare them off ever making necessary but unpopular decisions.
For what its worth I like Gillard much better than Rudd and I hope she leads Labor to victory this year, but like many I have a sour taste in my mouth at the way our democratically elected Prime Minister was dumped because of ALP power brokers, mining executives and Newspoll.
IF Labor do lose the upcoming election, a saving grace could be that it would scare future governments from the short term poll driven musical stairs style leadership we have seen recently and think long term even if it means being unpopular.