Learning from my mistakes

If you engage in commentary for an extended time on any issue, but particularly on politics, you’re bound to get things wrong. In such cases, there are a few options. The most common is to double down, grasping at any straw that will justify your original claim. Another is to wait; the world is so changeable that a prediction that seemed laughably wrong at one time may turn out correct after all. But, mostly the best thing is to learn from your mistakes.

I’ve made a few mistakes, but the one that I’ve been picked up on most is my prediction, in 2007, that

The Liberal Party will never again win a federal election.”

Of course, this wasn’t meant to be taken at face value. I went on immediately to say that

This isn’t a prediction of unending Labor rule, rather an observation that the Liberal and National parties are in such dire straits that they can’t continue as they are. They haven’t got enough support, parliamentary representation or ideas for one party, let alone two.

I thought the obvious solution was a merger, as in fact happened in Queensland not long afterwards. But my many friends in the Murdoch Press and the rightwing blogosphere have taken great delight in quoting the first sentence out of context. Given that the Liberals have yet to win their election, I followed the waiting strategy, waiting to see whether the turn of events (and the fact that my characterization of the Libs and Nats remains entirely accurate) might validate the prediction after all. But, after the events of the last week, I think it’s time to admit error.

What lessons should I learn from this?

First, never try to be cute on the Internetz, unless you’re a cat. I could have written a straight post suggesting a merger and it would long since have been forgotten. I knew perfectly well that Newscorp and its allies are shameless liars, and that their readers are utterly gullible (provided that what they are reading confirms their prejudices) and I handed them a stick to beat me with. I’ll avoid paradox in future.

Second, never underestimate the capacity of the Labor Party for suicidal stupidity. At the time I wrote the post, Labor seemed safe for two or more terms everywhere but NSW. Instead we saw
* WA Premier Carpenter revoke the ban on dealings with Brian Burke, leading to immediate disaster
* Privatisation campaigns in both NSW and Queensland
* The dumping of Nathan Rees (NSW Labor’s last hope) in favor of Tripodi-Obeid puppet Kristina Keneally
and, most disastrously of all,
* The coup against Kevin Rudd. The march of folly has continued to the very end, with a majority of the Parliamentary Party confirming, for the second time, that they would rather give Tony Abbott control of both houses of Parliament, and, in many cases, lose their own seats, than break with the failed leadership of Julia Gillard. The many (now former) Labor MPs in Queensland who marched straight over the electoral cliff with Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser seem to have set the pattern here

92 thoughts on “Learning from my mistakes

  1. @Alan Both keating and howard came back from well-behind in the polls.

    the current lot of labor leaders lack these skills in fighting back and winning respect.

    the reason is, as keating said, they do not know how to get out of bed in the morning until a focus group tells them which side.

  2. The title of this post is “learning from my mistakes”. There is no going back and to think it is possible is a big mistake. Rudd is a deeply flawed man who knows how to work a crowd but not the people he works with. His indecision last week was just the latest manifestation.

    As there is no other person who is a likely leader Labor has chosen Julia Gillard who is flawed as all humans and leaders are. However her flaws are nothing compared to Tony Abbott. Students are now looking at what he offers and are appalled by what he proposes. Other groups are likely to do the same and there are probably going to be new styles of campaigning adopted to get around the media bias.

    If Kevin Rudd can manage his ego and sense of grievance Julia Gillard can win. He is not the messiah and he isn’t even a naughty boy. Just yesterday’s man.

  3. So apparently Crean’s Banzai charge was preceeded by a sms message asking him not to do anything…..
    They literally forced the only person who could possibly contest the next election with a chance of winning to renounce any leadership ambition for all time because of a missed text message.

    God help us

  4. I think Crean’s latest is completely absurd. Launching a challenge is not something you do without crossing the Ts. I’ve been trying to avoid the conclusion the whole thing was a setup, but Crean’s excuse, which is at variance with his initial story, and his long record as an intemperate Rudd critic, is beginning to smell a lot like a rat.

    I’d also love to know what moved Albanese to suddenly declare he would never vote to remove a sitting Labor prime minister.

  5. On comebacks, the key to that is a skilled leader with vision and strength

    Labor does not get out of bed until a focusvgroup tells them which side.

    Natural born followers do not know how to stage a fightback

  6. There is always a chance of victory six months out from an election in a two horse race. The electorate is more volatile than ever, rendering the endless comparisons with previous cycles moot. A lot can happen in politics in six months. Heck, three months ago Gillard was almost in front, and did lead in a poll or two. Such absolutism only reflects poorly on the judgement of those whose hope in a flawed man has been dashed.

  7. Moments of pessimissm are common after defeats just as is overindulgence in the heady wine of victory.

    The democrats after 2004 were having to reassure themselves that the USA was a centralist voting country and all was not lost . Things will come back because powrr rotates.

    By 2008, the democrats drunk on the wine of victory thought they were in power for a generation and the GOP was a permanent minority. By 2012, retention of the white house was hard work.

  8. @Tyler. That Rudd thought it sufficient to call off a plan that was months in the making by sending a text message with an unclear message is poor leadership. He could have just stated in the text not to proceed; instead it was call me. The timing of the challenge was fed to journalists in January. Text messages are unreliable in a fast moving scenario particularly as Joel Fitzgibbon had followed through with his open destabilisation. If Labor loses badly then those people will need to face the fact that it was as much their fault as anyone else.

  9. @Jill Rush

    Your argument works if, and only if, the second Crean version is true. Crean first said that the Rudd camp had given him the go-ahead and it was untrue he was out of contact. He then said he missed a text message and he was out of contact.

    The problem with the destabilisation argument is that it was not the Rudd camp, for example, decided making Slipper speaker was a good idea, or who decided to bring on the media package without consulting cabinet, caucus or cross-bench. Julia Gillard simply has very, very poor political skills except when it comes to pre-empting her own cabinet or caucus. 4 hours’ notice of a caucus meeting is a disgrace compared with the 4 or 5 days allowed in previous challenges.

    The destabilisation argument would also mean the 2010 decline in Rudd’s electoral standing was entirely a product of Gillard’s destabilisation campaign against him.

  10. Jim Rose :
    On comebacks, the key to that is a skilled leader with vision and strength
    Labor does not get out of bed until a focusvgroup tells them which side.
    Natural born followers do not know how to stage a fightback

    Brilliant evidence!

    Altemeyer, in his book The Authoritarians, notes that one of the key characteristics of the authoritarian tendency to be attracted to right-wing politics is the desire for a strong, father-like figure to implement the defining characteristics that define the in-group and the out-group, and hence to reward the faithful and punish their enemies.

    How does that relate to your post? All three lines are about leadership. Strong leadership, need leaders to tell them what to do, followed by the “born follower” line.

    I’m really starting to worry about you Jim.

  11. The text message actually read:

    Gidday Simon. I’m told you saw the PM last night. If that’s so and if it in anyway touches the leadership, and if you are making any public comments, please give me a call beforehand. My position is as before. All the best. Kevin,

    It’s hard to read any ambiguity into that.

  12. At this point the only thing that makes any sense is Crean was deliberately working for Gillard to try and smoke out the Rudd supporters so that Gillard had a pretext to remove them and force Rudd’s hand.

    He succeeded and doomed the party at the next election

  13. @Tyler

    At this point the only thing that makes any sense is Crean was deliberately working for Gillard to try and smoke out the Rudd supporters so that Gillard had a pretext to remove them and force Rudd’s hand.

    Plausible, but then again, Crean is an arrant prattling fool. so it is quite possible he really did believe he was in some way opening a door to a change to Rudd or at worst clear air, and was essentially acting alone.

  14. @Tyler

    I really don’t want to find this plausible, but it was Crean who triggered the 2012 challenge by calling Rudd disloyal and treacherous. Despite claiming that he supported Rudd, Crean delivered no votes and moved quickly through a fairly damning rhetoric of ‘games’ and ‘gutless’. Equally he claimed to be running for deputy leader and made no attempt to gather votes for his own candidacy. He initially lied about communications from the Rudd camp and then came up with this lame excuse of missing a text message.

  15. You could also apply the same logic to your stance on global warming too, couldn’t you? But I bet you don’t. How the hell did you become a professor? I weep for the state and quality of our so called academics.

  16. #40: John Quiggin doesn’t need defending by others, but judging by that comment, you are clearly not fit to tie his boot laces.

  17. @Will On a strong, father-like figure to implement the defining characteristics that define the in-group and the out-group, it is the Left who hero worships its leaders and even have photos of them in their houses.

    Liberal and Country party leaders are forgotten 5 minutes after they left.

    Do you recall the wide smiles on the faces of the Bob Brown and Adam Bandt when the parliament was addressed by drone commander in chief Obama? Did Bob Brown interrupt Obama’s speech to ask about the endless war in Afghanistan and drone strikes?

    The Left is inherently prone to hero worship because the Left wants to reshape the world and the leaders of that movement have heroic missions. As Mises explained:

    “The incomparable success of Marxism is due to the prospect it offers of fulfilling those dream-aspirations and dreams of vengeance which have been so deeply embedded in the human soul from time immemorial.

    It promises a Paradise on earth, a Land of Heart’s Desire full of happiness and enjoyment, and—sweeter still to the losers in life’s game—humiliation of all who are stronger and better than the multitude.”

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