Aussie election lesson

The fall of the Labor Government is not a lesson about ‘disunity’, but of  self-obsession.

New Zealand Labour says it has learned from the Australian election that disunity is a voter-turn-off. That’s a convenient lesson for the leadership candidates, because they want to wrangle caucus behind them it they win.

The actual lesson is about self-obsession.

Labor lost the Australian election because it had spent the better part of its final term obsessed with itself. Since Governments ought to be obsessed only with the will of the people, Labor was going to lose.

Helen Clark’s term as PM showed that disunity is not a problem in itself. Voters are mature enough to appreciate that politicians have differences of opinion over national challenges. What they want from those internal debates is a firm decision.

The problems of the last term of the New Zealand Labour Government, and the Australian Labour Government were paucity of purpose. The debates weren’t matters of public significance.

When Rudd took over as PM from Gillard, I said Labour would still lose the election. He didn’t have enough time, nor humility, to change the situation. To win, Rudd had to be very different to the man who had previously lost the support of the public and his caucus. Otherwise Labour was just delivering up more of the self-obsession.

Government’s lose elections because voters start to despise what they know and start to like what they don’t know. What-ever faults of Tony Abbott are apparent to the media-class, to the public he at least seemed keen on the will of the people.

The current NZ Labour leadership contest has provided a platform for showcasing candidates talking about themselves. There’s a fine and sophisticated line between saying you’re something, and acting in a way that proves it.

Rudd never had the time nor inclination in his election campaign to act like he cared about the public will. It’s not a good sign that the candidates for NZ’s leadership have felt forced to talk about themselves rather than acting out the sort of leader they really would be.

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