Labour party woes

No one could have escaped the battle for power that has been playing out by our Prime Minister and her Foreign Minister. Putting aside the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of how our Prime Minister assumed her role, there is much we can learn from the toxic battle. As we have been observing for a while now, this power struggle was bound to be destructive.

There has been a huge cultural shift from ‘me’ culture (back) to ‘we’ culture; that is, the way we are talking to ourselves about who and what we are – the consumer culture around us – is telling us that we are a (functioning) group - a crowd, a team, a choir, a book club, a community, a dance troupe and in this context, a party and a government of the larger group - and we are co-creators of all of these.

Contrast this new ‘we-ness’ with the more individualistic, competitive, ‘me against them’, “it’s all about me” culture of the 80s and 90s (think about Madonna’s video for ‘Material Girl’ or Brett Easton-Ellis’s book ‘American Psycho’ as great cultural examples of “me-ness” and of course, some could say, old style politicians), with significant events of recent times (most noticeable, the GFC) that have played a part in triggering this shift away from “me-ness” cultural values.

At the end of the day, we all need to pull together to survive.

One of the key themes that is shaping the current consumer culture is a strong desire for survival. Most of us recognise that survival is predicated on a large degree of reciprocal altruism where the desire of the individual is less relevant than the benefit for the collective. In response to this, we have shifted again to the three Cs: conversation, collaboration and collective creation.

Leadership battles are not inline with the cultural norms of today. One wonders, how our politicians (regardless of political alliance) can get it so wrong?

Dip in support for Rudd

I am wiping the egg off my face this morning. Last week I happily wrote off Newspoll’s recent findings of a drop in support for Rudd as a blip and then along comes this week’s Essential Report showing there is, indeed, something going on.

The fall we have picked up may not be as spectacular as Newspoll’s but we are beginning to see movement away from Labor, especially among older Australians.

A four-point fall in two party preferred vote is beyond margin for error and could mean one of three things: (i) Newspoll was right all along (albeit a little over-cooked); (ii) Newspoll was wrong but the world has caught up with their error; or (iii) we have a blip to match Newspoll’s.

Polling is a little like beauty – the truth lies in the eyes of the beholder – and short of ringing every voter up and asking them why they voted Labor (which we are planning to do next week) we can only look at the issues in play.

1. Asylum Seeker Stand-Off is Unresolved – after nearly a month the government has been unable to resolve the plight of the asylum seekers on the Oceanic Viking. We know that the public perceives the government as too soft in its handling of the issue – and we also know this is particularly felt by older voters.

2. Don’t Knows Higher Than Normal – another factor backing the asylum seeker theory is that Don’t Knows have jumped from an average of about 8 per cent to 13 per cent. My theory here is that left-leaning voters who think the government is actually playing too hard on asylum seekers are ‘parking’ their protest in the ‘Don’t Know‘ column. In other words, he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

3. Coming Back to the Field on the Economy – Separate questions asked this week shows that Labor is losing its grip on the economic arguments and its ability, to date, to neutralise a core Coalition strength. The Libs’ 24-point lead on managing debt would be an area of growing concern.

4. Not Telling Your Good News Stories - Another issue we picked up this week was the low number of people (just 27 per cent) who know that Labor has taken over construction of the National Broadband Network. For every punter who whines that the government doesn’t stand up to big business, here is the perfect response. Rudd and Conroy eyeballed Telstra and saw off Sol, they have taken on the most significant macro-economic reform in a decade and have squandered the chance to tell a populist economic story that even The Australian supports.

5. Confusion on Climate Change – The government is not just struggling to get its CPRS through the Senate, it is struggling to keep the public engaged in climate change,. As the debate has gotten more and more specific, more people have been falling not the ‘Don’t Know’ category on just about every indicator. And now, something even scarier is happening, the number of people denying climate change is on the rise – up to 31 per cent.

6. Two Years Is Too Long for Any Honeymoon – A two-year honeymoon is longer than some marriages. Having enjoyed popularity that made Bob Hawke look like a social outcast, it was only a matter of time before Krudd came back to the field.

Finally, some perspective – even if this week’s poll is true and support is 55-45, that is still two points better than the November 2007 federal election. While the Liberal Party will take some comfort from these numbers, whichever way you cut it Labor is still in poll position for the one day when it matters.

by Peter Lewis (