Countdown to the poll that counts

ONE hundred days from today, Australia will go to the hustings to elect a new federal government. The indications from opinion polls are that the incumbent Labor government will be reduced to a rump in parliament and that the Coalition — a grouping of the Liberal and National parties — will sweep back to power after six years in opposition.

It is not often that opinion polls are wrong these days; the most recent example of pollsters being off the mark that I can recall was in Britain in 1992 when all polls pointed to a Labor return to power. But the Conservatives, under John Major, triumphed and by a pretty big margin too.

However that cannot be counted on. For Labor, about the only thing that can reduce the margin of defeat would be a return to the leadership of Kevin Rudd, a man who is hated by most in the party. Yet polls indicate that the public likes Rudd.

But the Labor party is in suicide mode; the practical thing to do would be for the prime minister Julia Gillard to resign and for the party to elect Rudd as leader. But it appears that Labor politicians would rather lose their seats than take this option; it looks like the self-preservation instinct, that is a natural part of every human being, is not present in those individuals who represent Labor in parliament.

Labor has done a fair number of things while in power that have been good for the country but it appears unable to sell its message to the people. Gillard is not popular and her manner of speaking — strained and preachy, often patronising — does not go down well.

Why is not possible for Labor to hold their collective noses and put Rudd in charge again? After all, what is the point of being a politician who is not in power? Most Labor MPs will lose their seats and the party may be left with between 40 and 50 seats, down from 71 which it has at present.

For Gillard it is a matter of pride now and she is highly unlikely to step down. And Rudd has indicated that he will only take over if he is asked.

Hence the best thing for Australians to do is to get used to saying “Prime Minister Tony Abbott” and holding their noses thereafter.


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