It’s been very interesting to listen to the commentary, not of the media, but of the politicians themselves. Labor MPs has been using phrases like ‘best chance to win the election’, ‘better position to challenge Tony Abbott’ and ‘best for the future of the party’. No one has said that Rudd is the best person to lead the country, or even the Labor party for that matter (other than in the context of victory chances), and that’s the reality of it.
This interview on RN this morning with Penny Wong is exactly what I’m talking about:
Rudd is more popular outside of the party, and Gillard is more popular within it. At least two thirds of the Labor party prefer working under Gillard. She gets things done, she’s a good politician, and she knows how to work with others to achieve her desired outcomes. The real issue is that she has done an awful job of communicating this to the public. She has an annoying voice and isn’t charismatic the way Rudd is, so people switch off and don’t listen to her, other that short news soundbites.
Rudd has always done a good job with the public. He is a great communicator and a good public orator, but it seems that behind the scenes he was a nightmare to work for. I’ve heard some people in the last 24 hours talk about how that’s ok and people need to just toughen up. Rudd gets things done and isn’t there to coddle his colleagues. Well no one is asking him to hold their hand, just not to be a jerk to work for. I won’t go on about this. I wrote all about that HERE the last time there was a leadership challenge. What I really want to talk about is why there was a change in leadership.
It has almost nothing to do with Gillard’s performance as PM. Listening to Tony Abbott you’d think she’d done nothing but screw us up for 3 years. You may not like everything she’s done, but she’s done some very good things for our nation. Some of her achievements in this minority government include:
* The NDIS
* The Royal Commission on child sexual abuse
* Keeping our economy in good shape during the GFC
* Raising the tax-free threshold
* Paid parental leave
* Gonski reforms (at a federal level, some of the states still need to get on board)
* Carbon pricing
There are some impressive things on that list! Big, difficult reforms made even more impressive by the need to have cross benchers involved and on board rather than just those you command in your own party.
But we don’t talk about that.
Labor have been terrible at communicating their achievements as they constantly get shouted down by the opposition. The opposition are doing an excellent job of being in opposition and making the government look bad. Whilst that might be their aim, I think it’s awfully irresponsible and wrong for them to be so relentlessly negative. Yes, I’m using that common, Labor phrase because it’s accurate. Rarely does Abbott offer any solutions, he just points out problems, usually the same ones over and over again. That is part of his job, but that’s not all of it. He does not offer a credible alternative. He sounds more like a whinging child. Notice that he never answers questions? He always redirects his answer to attack the government, or he’s super vague.
Not only does the public not warm to Gillard, but they were pre-disposed to hate her from the beginning because of how she came to power. Not a great start for anyone, too hard to recover from.
And don’t get me started on the gender issue again. I’ve written previously about that HERE.
Ok, I’m going to make my actual point now. Most people’s experience of politics is short sound bites. Most people read sensationalist, bad journalism. Most people don’t watch or read speeches for themselves, they get short summaries and don’t really understand the issues or details. I bet hardly anyone can articulate why Rudd was ousted last time. I bet most people have little idea why Gillard was ousted this time. It’s a popularity contest and it ought not to be. I don’t want the most charismatic person running the country, I want the person who does it the best. However, if I don’t read and inform myself I’ll have no idea who is actually doing the best job, I’ll just listen to whoever speaks the loudest. That’s what is happening. The majority of the population listen to the loudest voices and form opinions based on that.
I often have conversations with people who are unable to articulate why they support a particular leader. Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Turnbull, take your pick. Support whoever you like, but if you’re getting your information from headlines and 10 second sound bites, you’re not getting the whole story and you may not know why you ought to support any leader.
People also often base their opinions on emotion rather than information. Lots of people get very angry and fired up about politics (as do I), but it’s often solely an emotional argument, not a rational one. If you can’t tell me why you think Julia Gillard is a bad leader then your opinion is invalid. If you can’t tell me why Kevin Rudd is a better one, then your opinion is invalid. If you can’t tell me why Abbott should beat them both, your opinion is invalid. And I don’t want vague notions of being ‘better’, I want reasons. HOW is one better than the other? ‘Because they are’ is not a valid argument, it means you don’t understand what’s happening, or why.
I’m not trying to be aggressive or offensive here, but that’s the reality. Please don’t defend a leader for emotional or popularity reasons. It’s not helpful and has contributed to our disgraceful level of political journalism. The way the media talks about politics in this country is utterly rubbish and it’s because it gets consumed by us. If we didn’t buy into it, they wouldn’t make it. The in-depth stuff is too boring and doesn’t sell, so there isn’t much of it. That makes me sad.
I’m not saying everyone needs to be a politics junkie like me, but I do hope that everyone can ask some basic policy questions and at least look at what their leaders stand for. Don’t vote for someone if you don’t know what they want to do with our country. Look at their policies. If they haven’t released them, send a quick email and ask. MPs respond to public pressure, so give it to them, that’s the way to create change.
Back to the journalism issue; people don’t often read stuff they disagree with, that’s the sad truth. I’m guilty of that at times I know, but I hope I expose myself to enough information and change my mind when I come across information that is contrary to my ideas. In fact I did with Rudd & Gillard. I used to be a Rudd supporter until I read lots of things that changed my mind.
Having said all this I really do hope that Kevin Rudd can be the messiah for the Labor party and keep them in power come election time. Even though I sort of feel this way about him:
Rudd may not be my preferred leader, but he does have good policies and I do believe in his ideals. I am a proud Labor voter. I’m just not always a fan of how he gets things done.
Whatever I think of Rudd, I DEFINITELY prefer him over Abbott.
If you want to some excellent articles on all of this (written by professionals rather than a hack like me) here you go: