Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.
For many of the opinionistas, PM Gillard is Humpty Dumpty. They insist that she has had a great fall, indeed one fall after another, and no amount of effort by the king’s men can ever put her together again, no amount of effort can give her an election winning edge. This is certainly the view of the vitriolic Niki Savva and her ilk; the News Limited coterie: Paul Kelly, Dennis Shanahan, David Spears – you know them all; the Fairfax opinionistas: Peter Hartcher, and the ‘new’ Michelle Grattan, now at The Conversation
, but writing exactly the same anti-Gillard spiel as before, now under a cloak of academic respectability; turncoat and Eddie Obeid friend Graham Richardson, valued by the anti-Gillard camp because of his prior Labor connections; and a vast array of Coalition has-beens: Peter Reith, Michael Kroger and Graeme Morris are just a few of these particularly venomous critics that pop up over and again. If I may borrow a Coalition phrase, ‘these people’ are the ones who paint our PM as Humpty Dumpty, who can never be put together again.
Distressing as that is to Labor supporters, it comes as no surprise because Labor people know that for at least two years News Limited has been hell-bent on destroying PM Gillard and her Government, and now it seems Fairfax has joined it.
What is most distressing to Labor supporters though is that some Labor politicians have joined in the anti-Gillard chorus. I don’t mean Graham Richardson – he long ago sold his soul to Rupert Murdoch. I do mean, for example, Alannah MacTiernan, an accomplished past Labor politician who is now the well-regarded Mayor of the City of Vincent in WA. Known for her strong views, she opined after the WA election that Labor could not win federally with Julia Gillard as PM, and urged her to step down. She stopped short of suggesting who might take her place. Current NT Labor MLA, Kon Vatskalis, soon joined her.
Others in Labor ranks have hinted similarly, and many opinionistas have strongly asserted the same. Most avoid suggesting who should replace her and how this should come about. Bill Shorten, Greg Combet, and even Simon Crean (the Napthine option) have been named. I do wonder what MacTiernan thought she might accomplish with her suggestion. She has certainly accomplished plenty of press coverage, all the more so I suppose because she is Labor, and many Labor politicians have been confronted by journalists with her statement and asked to respond. She had caused much discomfort in Labor circles, made all the more so because her advice lacks a credible mechanism for bringing about the PM’s resignation and installing a replacement. In a word, her unnecessary intervention is having a negative effect on her own party, and increasing the likelihood of a defeat in September. She, and other Labor figures that utter such unhelpful comments, are a menace even more threatening than the usual media suspects.
Let’s for a moment look at the alternatives to Julia Gillard who has shown herself to be across all portfolios, who has managed a minority government better than anyone thought possible, has a vast legislative agenda and has already had over 460 pieces of legislation passed against trenchant, and at times vitriolic opposition. Is anyone suggesting that Bill Shorten, who has done well in his portfolio, especially in addressing disability, is capable of addressing the full gamut of portfolios if he were to become PM? Who of you believe that Greg Combet, who has performed excellently in his climate change portfolio, could do as well across all areas of government? Do any of you really believe that Simon Crean, who was so cruelly ejected from leadership years ago, would risk his hand again?
If it’s not those men who might replace the PM, who is it? It would not be Wayne Swan who has been tarred with the same brush as the PM. And the possibility, let alone the appropriateness of a return to Kevin Rudd, seems to have been all but discarded by Rudd himself and rejected by a plethora of his caucus colleagues who don’t want him, a failed PM, back in that position under any circumstances. There are of course still pro-Rudd agitators in caucus who believe his return would enhance Labor’s electoral fortunes, and perhaps save their own seats, but that belief is based on opinion polls. How any rational politician could base his or her beliefs and take radical actions on such unreliable and evanescent data is beyond my comprehension. In my opinion, the disruption and chaos that a forced return to Rudd would occasion would quickly negate any imagined electoral advantage. In my view, the only way Rudd’s electoral appeal might be usefully harnessed would be for him to agree to unreservedly back PM Gillard publically, get out on the hustings where he is popular, and strongly advocate a return of the Gillard Government to counter the danger posed to this nation by an Abbott government. A reward that would give him the status he craves might be an inducement, as Mark Latham has suggested.
Because nothing is impossible in political circles, we have to work on probabilities. Get real Folks; how high would you realistically rate the possibility of a Gillard resignation in favour of any of the above-named? And more importantly, how high would you rate the probability that any change would result in a better outcome on September 14? Would you put any of your own money on either of those? What odds do you think you would get? Come on.
Yet the more Labor folk waver, the more they behave as if they need to ‘save the furniture’, the more they propel Labor towards the very outcome they fear. Cringing cowardice will get Labor nowhere, except drive it backwards. What is needed by all who support Labor is what Julia Gillard exhibits every day of her political life: COOL COURAGE.
She puts to abject shame the doubting Thomases, the Rudd agitators, the marginal seat worry-warts, the timid Labor supporters who talk to their mates, hear adverse comments about our PM, give them predictive credence, and wring their hands in anguish. ALL Labor supporters need guts, stamina and resolve. Where it is lacking, recrimination and self-defeat looms.
The latest round of doubt and uncertainty has arisen from the WA State election, won convincingly by the Liberals and Nationals. Variously described by the commentariat as ‘dire’, a ‘landslide’, a ‘rout’, a ‘crushing defeat’, it has been attributed to ‘Federal Labor being on the nose’, ‘toxic’ even ‘lethal’ according to Peter van Onselen. Leigh Sales sees Labor’s electoral woes as a precursor to a ‘wipeout’ in September. Such extravagant words seem to be all that is necessary to ‘spark a new round of leadership speculation’, especially among the opinionistas. The facts are less important to them, but let’s look at those facts objectively.
Labor was defeated convincingly by Colin Barnett and his team, but why? Barnett himself said that the election was fought mainly on State issues. He credited good governance as the major factor. He made little of the suggestion that the result was an anti-Gillard protest; he even said it might have been a mistake to not have her involved in the campaign. He was not about to assign the major factor in his substantial success to any factor other than his government’s work. Do we believe what the winner has said, or the interpretation put upon the result by the antipathetic commentariat?
There has been much made of the swings to the Liberals and Nationals. In some electorates it was very large and Labor’s loss commensurate. But the State swings show a different picture. The State wide swing to the Liberals was 8.8%, and to the Nationals 1.1%, a total of 9.9%. Now one might reasonably expect that Labor would have borne the brunt of that swing, but that was not so. The swing against Labor was 2.3%, its primary vote falling from 35.9% at the last WA election to 33.6% this time (at the last count)
, a loss in percentage terms of 6.4% of its total primary vote since the last election that you will remember was close, delivering a ‘hung parliament’. Is that really a ‘rout’? Julie Bishop’s talk of a “12% swing, which would have been 15% had Julia Gillard taken part in the election campaign”, was just hogwash, as is so much of what she utters. It was the Greens who suffered much more, losing about a third of their primary vote: 11.9% to 8.0% (-3.9%), and the conservative Independents still more: 9.0% to 5.3% (-3.7). That is where the LNP garnered most of its swing.
Stephen’s Smith’s concession that Federal Labor had been ‘a drag on State Labor’ was broadcast endlessly, and had an element of truth to it, but if one can take Colin Barnett’s and Labor leader Mark McGowan’s assessment as valid, the ‘drag’ was small. They ought to be in a well-informed position. But to the commentariat the ‘drag’ was massive and predictive of electoral annihilation for Labor in September.
The effect on Federal Labor seats in WA is uncertain. Anthony Green has said that the three Federal Labor seats would likely be held, even in Perth, Stephen’s Smith’s seat, about which doubt has been expressed. Green said that based on ”state figures it [Perth] would be held by Labor…The state figures within Perth are Liberal 44.7%, Labor 42.2%, Green 10.1%, Christian Democrat 2.6%, Family First 0.3%, Socialist 0.2%.”
The most disappointing aspect of these last few days though has been the reaction of members of the Labor caucus, some of whom seem to suffer from chronic depressive illness with an overlay of obsessive behaviour, and others whose melancholy is given expression through agitation for a change to Kevin Rudd, white-anting of the PM, and the back-grounding of ever-eager journalists ready to make a meal of any tidbit that comes their way. These are Labor’s, and Julia Gillard’s, most dangerous enemies.
In my view, their reaction, and that of journalists hungry for sensational headlines, has been way over the top. What did they expect out of the WA election? They must have known that a well regarded first term government in a State that is prospering was not going to be kicked out. They must have expected loss of seats. How many would they have accepted as reasonable? It looks as if around nine seats will be lost. Would one or two, or perhaps three or four have been OK? What did they expect? What would have silenced the malcontents? Do we know? Do they know? Would any loss at all be enough to set the hares running?
Then came today’s Newspoll
. Long before it appeared, the commentariat was out there pumping it up as being decisive in determining Julia Gillard’s future. They were salivating at the prospect of delivering a double whammy – the WA result followed within forty-eight hours with another disastrous poll, with Labor’s primary vote sinking even lower and PM Gillard’s popularity falling, as well as her PPM rating. They hoped that this would stir the Rudd agitators to action and whip up even more intense leadership speculation. They were hoping for more self-flagellation from the caucus malcontents, and were ready with tongues hanging out for another round of predicting Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministerial demise. Would she even see out the next fortnight of parliamentary sittings?
No rational person would have expected a vast change in a poll of voting intention from the last Newspoll
or the earlier Nielsen
poll, especially after all the mud the media has hurled at PM Gillard since then. Yet the commentariat was out there whipping up the ‘Gillard is doomed if the polls don’t improve’ scenario, in anticipation of just that result. The piranhas, thirsty for blood, for tearing every skerrick of flesh from the PM, circled in anticipation of a kill.
But surprisingly the Newspoll came in at a TPP of 52/48 for the Coalition, somewhat of an improvement from the 55/45 figures last time. And Julia Gillard has jumped above Tony Abbott in the PPM stakes: 42/38. Of course there was a morsel for the opinionistas to play with – the statistic that with Kevin Rudd as leader Labor’s primary vote would jump to an improbable 47% and the TPP to 56/44 in favour of Labor. It will be fascinating to see how they play with those statistics, but anyone who believes those figures would be even remotely approached at an election is delusional and ought to be on medication. Yet that is what the commentariat would have us believe, and what the Rudd agitators dream about. To return to the theme of this piece, what ALL Labor politicians need, particularly the caucus malcontents, what ALL Labor supporters need, is COOL COURAGE in place of the cringing cowardice too many exhibit. They need to emulate our gutsy PM. They need to ignore the ups and downs of meaningless opinion polls, even when they move in Labor’s favour, and get behind her, get behind Labor, strain every fibre of their being to ensure that Tony Abbott never becomes PM of this country.
To return to our Humpty Dumpty Nursery Rhyme, to my mind the most plausible explanation of its origin is the story of the siege of Colchester.
As the story goes, according to Jennifer Wright, writing on Yahoo voices
: ”during the English civil war, which took place from 1642 to 1649, there was a battle referred to as the Siege of Colchester, which was a walled city guarded heavily by the Royalists. Parliamentarians were the enemy and known as Roundheads because of their close cropped hair cuts. Inside the city walls stood a castle and a few churches. One church in particular, St. Mary's, stood right beside the wall.
“Humpty Dumpty was believed to be a large cannon that was placed on the wall next to the church…
“Story has it that the walls of the fortified city were shot at for 11 weeks before finally falling. The wall beneath Humpty Dumpty was destroyed and the cannon fell to the ground. Therefore "All the king's horses and all the king's men" tried to put Humpty back together again by attempting to place the cannon onto another part of the wall. Unfortunately Humpty Dumpty was too heavy and could not be replaced. This siege ended with Colchester being taken by the Parliamentarians.”
Here, it is the Coalition parliamentarians, reinforced by a compliant media, that has been shooting incessantly at the Labor fortifications and the Labor leader. They repeatedly proclaimed that the Labor cannon, which had been vigorously returning fire, was falling down, or about to have a great fall. The fall of the leader, who was firing the cannon to great effect, was predicted time and again, but she wouldn’t fall, or as the chief Roundhead said: "She won’t lie down and die."
Meanwhile many, but not all of the king’s men were supporting her and her cannon. Some were timid, afraid of defeat. They detracted from her cannon firing; they touted for another king. They are still to realize that instead of distracting, if all the king’s men secured Humpty Dumpty on the embattlements, the king could fire cannon balls uninterruptedly at the enemy, and win the war. But that requires discarding their cringing cowardice, and in its place exhibiting cool courage, just like their king. The king’s men owe it to her and her many admiring supporters. Are they up to it?
What do you think?
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