When Rudd won power for Labor in 2007, he posted the same percentage of the vote as Abbott in 2013. If we average the published Newspoll data for the period into quarterly ‘two-party preferred’ numbers, it is evident that Rudd’s government enjoyed a surge upward in his first quarter as PM, most of which he managed to hold for eight consecutive quarters thereafter. And, even after reportedly alienating half of his Labor colleagues along with many others in the immediate vicinity, Rudd still held well over 50% of the vote at the time he was deposed.
His departure ushered in a Disney-like period of crises (real and imagined), shameless posturing and fairy tales some call the “Spin and Misogyny era”. What were once healthy ratings bequeathed to his successor, after one quarter began dropping much like that which the Coalition is experiencing. The then Gillard government gave the impression it was out of control, relying on ad hoc actions to keep the show on the road day to day. Short of the misogyny blip, the Labor government stumbled along on a largely downward trajectory until the inevitable occurred in 2013.
When the Coalition came to power in 2013 Tony Abbot proclaimed confidently that finally the adults were back in control and we could all rest easy. These same adults then watched as their victory margin evaporated soon after leaving no trace of a honeymoon period at all. Worse, their numbers are still dropping.
NB:Two party preferred Labor (Rudd) V Coalition (Abbott) Source: Newspoll stats for federal voting preferences -House Reps post 2007 election (see website).Rounding down in all cases. Averaging for the ten quarters of Rudd Prime Ministership and five quarters of Abbott’s tenure.
So what happened? Unlike the spin cycle on the Gillard machine the new team switched to the ”we know best” approach and apparently knowing what was required was all the explanation the public needed or were going to get from them. So while the "kids" had been deceitful, mistrustful and foolhardy, the new “adults” appeared secretive and condescending and to some arrogant. My experience in political research suggests that Aussies don’t like being talked down to; not only by their great and powerful friends, but even more so by their own leaders.
And this is borne out in the statistics. After just one quarter in the seat, the government’s margin over the Opposition on a two party preferred basis had slipped to just 2%. After a second quarter, it had fallen into the negative (-4%) and has continued south ever since. By December 2014, the marginhad crashed to a negative 8% (-8%), the September uptick notwithstanding.
Imagine if Labor were led by even a semi-charismatic spokesperson? However, just as the electorate did not vote for Abbott but the Coalition in the 2013 election, the same could be argued of the current Opposition leader. The Coalition’s present problem is largely of its making and if not its fault, it is being blamed for it nonetheless. Abbott has always been a low scorer in the popularity stakes. Both PM and leader of the Opposition manage to keep politics uninspiring at best if their personal ratings are anything to go by. As pointed out earlier, the people are blaming the entire government for messing up, not just Abbott who had almost as many detractors before the election yet the government managed to post a win as convincing as Rudd’s victory against Howard in 2007.
Susan Ley is an effective operator with the human touch but her inclusion in the inner circle is but a dolly step back to the path of redemption. She adds a splash of colour to an otherwise sombre religious canvas but one splash of colour does not the Renaissance make.
On that other matter of note, the people of Queensland are just about to show the present Qld Liberal government, which won in one of the greatest landslides ever how well arrogance sits with Aussies. There is nothing at this stage that leads me to think that the electorate isn’t capable of doing exactly the same thing to their federal counterparts should there be an election any time sooner or later.