Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Robot Wars

Kevin Rudd is going to lose his job today. The ABC reports that Julia Gillard has the numbers to topple Rudd after the usual round of secret meetings among the party's powerbrokers yesterday.
In the two or so years that Kevin Rudd has been Prime Minister of Australia, he's made many decisions to cause traditional Labor supporters to have serious doubts about the ideology and direction of the party. The next few sentences would normally elaborate on that statement, but they won't. They could, but there's no point. Kevin Rudd is not really going to lose his job because of policy decisions. He's going to lose his job because he's Kevin Rudd.

Initially Rudd was viewed as a model of the new breed of political 'small l' liberal: an economic conservative with a strong sense of social justice. He seemed a smart, likeable, decent guy who could trade friendly blows with jolly Joe Hockey on an otherwise emetic morning TV show. He won the 2007 election on the strength of that presence, but mainly he benefited from the natural gear change in the political cycle.

I was happy when the Howard government was unceremoniously dumped, but the seeds of my discontent with the new boy were sown the night of his election. It was an exciting night. Much drink was consumed. We all gathered around the TV expectantly, waiting for the words of the new man in charge. He appeared to a rapturous reception and proceeded to give a victory speech that was the most anodyne, passionless, boring bit of emptiness that I've ever heard. In the months and years that followed, he went on to commit, to my mind anyway, one of the gravest political sins in the book: he governed like he campaigned.

When the analysts pick over the corpse of 'the Rudd years' in the next little while, they'll have to fill airwaves and column inches with a multitude of reasons why he failed. There'll be stuff about mining taxes, big spending, reneging on climate change...y'know, all the good meaty stuff. And all true. But the real failure of Kevin Rudd is that he is a robot. He appears to the electorate as non-human in is approach. Nothing he says sounds like it comes from his heart or balls, which makes sense, because, to date, science has yet to design a robot with these very human constituent parts.

The Labor Party knows they have made some terrible policy blunders. All governments make terrible policy blunders. The key to governing is how you play those fuck ups. The Howard government had the uncanny knack of being able to make people forget the last fuck up by making another one. They'd stonewall and arrogantly puff their chests out until something else came along to divert our attention. It was very skilful.

The current PM (hang on, what time is it?) simply lacks the ability to sell. He cannot sell policy, he cannot sell band-aids for policy errors and he cannot sell the idea that he is 'one of us'. And that's what Australians want, as shallow as that may sound. A great, but very superficial, measure of an Australian's affection for a politician resides in whether you would be happy to have a beer with your PM.

With Gough Whitlam, most people would have imagined a very enjoyable evening with an extremely witty raconteur. With Bob Hawke, you'd be sideways in your chair as the PM brought round another huge tray of tequila slammers and chiding, "Fackin' 'ell, you still nursin' that bloody schooner? Drink up, what'd'ya think this is, Bush Week? Come on, let's knock these back and get over to the TAB." With Paul Keating, you'd have had your reservations when he started in on the wine, but all would be forgiven as he introduced you to insults you'd never heard of before.

But Kev? All I can really imagine is a pub leaden with uncomfortable, David Brent-like silence, with Rudd at the centre, shifting in his seat as he surveys the eyes, contemptuous and near-comatose, then breaking the silence with, "Mm...this is a nice beer. I believe they grow the hops in the New Norfolk area in Tasmania."

Now to Julia. Ooooh, the measure has changed. A beer with a woman? Surely polity and a different kind of benchmark has to apply, which begs the immortal question:

Are we ready for a female Prime Minister?

And I can only think of two ways to answer:

1) That's a stupid fucking question, and;
2 Ready or not, here she comes.