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Feet of Clay

August 31st, 2003

This opinion poll reported in the Sun-Herald shows Labor 4 points ahead on the two-party preferred vote. I don’t imagine that this will persist – the government has had a particularly bad week. Still there are a couple of lessons that can be drawn.

One is that, contrary to what was, at least a week ago, the conventional wisdom, Howard does not bestride the political scene like a colossus. Given some bad luck at the right time (for example, a Tampa-style stunt that went wrong), he could easily lose the next election.

The second is that the view of the government as ‘mean and tricky’ is well-established for a large section of the electorate. Episodes such as the ethanol scandal, Abbott’s efforts over Hanson and the WMD lies all fit into this perception.

As long as the housing bubble continues, the odds are in Howard’s favor. But, the bubble will burst sooner or later. When it does, the accumulated costs of mean and tricky government will burden the Liberal Party for years to come.

Update 1/9/03: Glenn Milne agrees with much of this, and emerges as a Costello partisan and strong critic of Howard. Is this new, and does it reflect a nascent Press Gallery consensus that Howard is consistently dishonest, and therefore should not be PM?

Further update 2/9: Dave Ricardo and Tim Dunlop, who follow Milne more closely than I do, say that he is a longstanding Costello partisan. And Mork raises the more general issue of the Press Gallery and its role. This will require a big post some time.

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  1. August 31st, 2003 at 23:05 | #1

    It will be interesting to see if Newspoll reflects the same trend.

  2. August 31st, 2003 at 23:45 | #2

    Howard’s entire economic, and cultural, policy has floated on the housing bubble.
    If it bursts, he is finished.
    But if it remains buoyant, then he will win relaxed and comfortably.
    Either way, the poll indicates that there is plenty of residual sympathy for the Hansonite cultural agenda.
    So the Cultural Left can take no heart from the temporary lapse in fortunes of the Evil King John.

  3. August 31st, 2003 at 23:52 | #3

    Howard’s entire economic, and cultural, policy has floated on the housing bubble.
    If it bursts, he is finished.
    But if it remains buoyant, then he will win relaxed and comfortably.
    Either way, the poll indicates that there is plenty of residual sympathy for the Hansonite cultural agenda.
    So the Cultural Left can take no heart from the temporary lapse in fortunes of the Evil King John.

  4. August 31st, 2003 at 23:53 | #4

    the worm seems to have turned onto me

  5. Homer Paxton
    September 1st, 2003 at 11:12 | #5

    Unfortunately we don’t know the margin of error but usually Morgan and the rest have around 3%.

    I think Jack is somewhat right but I think if the next election is held when Australia feels afraid ( A bomb killing Australians or explodes nearby) then Howard is a shoo-in ( As australians like all voters then vote for the incumbent)whereas if they don’t then the ALP has a lot more hope than people think.

  6. Mork
    September 1st, 2003 at 14:26 | #6

    One of the things that really gives me the irrits about politics in this country is that someone can make a statement like this:

    Glenn Milne agrees with much of this, and emerges as a Costello partisan and strong critic of Howard. Is this new, and does it reflect a nascent Press Gallery consensus that Howard is consistently dishonest, and therefore should not be PM?

    … and be absolutely correct about the way the press gallery operates and conciously views its role, and no-one sees a thing wrong with it.

  7. John
    September 1st, 2003 at 15:27 | #7

    A good point, Mork, though I hope you didn’t read my query as endorsement of the way the Press Gallery operates. I realise that I haven’t written anything on this, and that I should.

  8. Mork
    September 1st, 2003 at 19:01 | #8

    Not at all, John – it’s just something that we all tend to take as a fact of life, and maybe we shouldn’t.

  9. Dave Ricardo
    September 1st, 2003 at 22:18 | #9

    *Glenn Milne agrees with much of this, and emerges as a Costello partisan and strong critic of Howard. Is this new, and does it reflect a nascent Press Gallery consensus that Howard is consistently dishonest, and therefore should not be PM?*

    Obviously you are not an avid reader of Glenn Milne, or you would have realised that he emerged as a Costello partisan a long time ago. Costello, or his office, have long been the source of most of Milne’s articles.

  10. September 1st, 2003 at 23:03 | #10

    Dave’s right. I remember reading a fair while back something Margo said in passing about Milne being the public outlet for Costello’s office: it was said as an aside but it was obvious that it was, at least amongst those who know, “common knowledge”.

  11. cs
    September 2nd, 2003 at 11:06 | #11

    Newspoll reports 51-49 to the Coalition, much narrower and probably more accurate, although the trend is clearly there. Simon Crean’s 18 per cent approval has to an ALP concern.

  12. Homer Paxton
    September 2nd, 2003 at 20:47 | #12

    Actually chris they are the same given the margin of error.
    My gut feeling has the Morgan poll possibly the more accurate one.
    Newspol has an unjust reputation for being accurate. Go back to 1998.

  13. Observa
    September 2nd, 2003 at 21:42 | #13

    Popularity polls can be misleading. The last Newspoll before the 96 election showed 45% preferred Keating to Howard (40%) as PM but Labor was thrashed at that election(albeit the same poll predicted the election result) Howard’s view of opinion polls is treated well in this Age article http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/06/20/105582848408.html
    Basically Howard knows which poll really counts.

  14. September 4th, 2003 at 22:12 | #14

    I remain cautiously confident that the Australian people’s deep and abiding suspicion of the federal Labor Party will once again carry the day.

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