Feet of Clay

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.

14 thoughts on “Feet of Clay

  1. 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.

  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. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  7. *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.

  8. 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”.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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