Not so long ago the Liberal Party looked like the land of the living dead.
The time of the election was Rudd’s to choose, and the only betting was on how much bigger his majority would be, and what he would do with control of the Senate.
Not any more. Love him or hate him, Tony Abbott has pulled the Liberals back from the brink and brought them within hailing distance of recovering power.
At the beginning of December I thought the Liberals were entering their final meltdown. Boy, was I wrong.
Much to everyone’s surprise, people actually like Tony Abbott. And not just Liberals. I like Tony Abbott. I wouldn’t vote for him in a million years, but at least he’s human. Next to him, Kevin Rudd looks soulless and mechanical. And worried.
An election that might come ‘at any moment’ has receded to ‘the last possible moment’. Labor members in marginal seats are glancing at the job ads, just in case.
Abbott has done this by moving away from the centre and showing he’s a genuine Liberal. People who were unsure exactly what the party was about now have a clearer answer. That shores up his base, but it’s doing more.
It’s making Rudd — who has never looked authentically Labor — appear shonky. Rudd remains mired in the middle ground.
His policies look slapdash, cobbled together in the back of his sleep-deprived brain at 2am, rather than proceeding from basic principles — and as a result, some of them are unravelling. Roof insulation, anyone?
There’s the endless procrastination. Have an inquiry, a report, a consultation exercise, anything, it seems, rather than actually do something based on convictions. If the research says people don’t like an idea — even if it’s a good one, even if it’s grounded in what we thought were Labor principles — ditch it. Human Rights Act, anyone?
But if the research says people want something, forget inquiries and cobble it together fast, even if it makes no sense.
Defend it to the death, even though it contradicts the principles Labor supposedly stands for, even when it won’t do what you promised anyway. Like internet censorship. Or the national broadband network.
Worse, Rudd’s a charisma-free zone, with all the personality of a Centrelink clerk quoting benefit regulations. Abbott may be a cardinal-ridden wingnut, but at least he’s a real wingnut, with an endearing streak of humility and an active conscience.
Because of that, we may have to get used to the idea of an Abbott government, which might not be a complete disaster for the GBLTI community.
Unless of course Rudd’s dodgy heart plays up and Julia Gillard steps into the top job before the poll. Then things could get really interesting!