The cost of burning your allies

I hope the Labor Party is watching what’s happening to it at the moment very carefully, and learning a few lessons for next time.

Lessons like – there is a cost to completely burning your base.

Gillard’s aping of the Coalition on welfare bashing, refugee bashing, gay bashing, Greens bashing – has left it rather free of friends. (And for little gain – those who hate those things are always going to vote for the Coalition anyway.) So when she’s being beaten up by the Murdoch press, largely unfairly, the natural counter to that – those writers who didn’t detest her the moment she entered politics – is absent. Who’s writing the pro-Gillard pieces to counter the “she’s finished” guff by hacks who always hated her and scent blood in the water while the government endures some bad poll numbers while it figures out the carbon tax details? The attacks are running almost uncontested, because Gillard has so badly, so unnecessarily, so deliberately burnt the people who would otherwise have countered the most hateful rubbish by her opponents.

Gillard probably figured there was nothing to lose by attacking things the left holds dear – what are they going to do, vote for the Coalition? But what she’s missed is that having allies is vitally important in politics – particularly if you want the national conversation to be fair to you. And at the moment, she’s burning through friends far faster than she can afford to.

You can see the price she’s paying by opening any of this week’s newspapers.

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35 responses to “The cost of burning your allies

  1. templemonkey

    It’s like a misreading of ‘The Art of War’

    To defeat your enemy, you must become your enemy.

  2. Particularly symbolic shot of her standing amidst the ruins of a town near Sendai at the ABC news site.
    You’re right she will find no ‘mates’ in the media regardless of who they barrack for.

  3. “You can see the price she’s paying by opening any of this week’s newspapers.”

    And she’s going to pay an even bigger price if Turnbull resumes leadership of the Liberals. That will be the tipping for many including previous ALP voters.

  4. Shit, I’m a Greens voter and I’d almost be willing to give my 2nd preference to Turnbull over Gillard.

    This government is a joke, and not even a funny one.

  5. Gillard’s strategy may seem odd, but it has a purpose. The purpose is to avoid any coalition with the Greens that would mean dividing up power and privelidge. Her strategy has been quite consistant.

    First was her response to the Julian Assagne matter. Who was she trying to kid? That’s when she lost me. I watch question time and I’ve seen how good she is on the floor, so I had high hopes when she became PM. But she has been the hugest disapointment. And then has been her total support for Israel. It seems to be a feature of this government that they want to lick American arse like there is no tomorrow. Hell, they’ve even got a front bencher who is described by the Americans as “a protected source”. In any other country he’d be put up against a wall in front of a firing squad.

    The reason she supports the Americans so strongly is that she thinks she needs their support to stay in power. There’s no conviction or morality in any of this, it’s all calculated so as her position isn’t undermined by the Americans.

    And then this crap about people on a disability pension who are bludging or something or other? CentreLink has designed the disability pension so it’s harder to get than getting on the Australian Olympic team, and we’ve got our prime minister mouthing off talking about people on the disability pension being bludgers. Pelease!

    This is all about Gillard looking to attack Abbott’s base because to labor a permanent coalition with the Greens simply isn’t an option. To Labor, Abbott’s base is the only gig in town. The reason why a coalition with the Greens isn’t an option is because the labor hard heads would have to give up privelidge and power to someone outside their base (which is why Rudd was got rid of). That’s what they are up to, and it’s a losing strategy.

    It’s a bit like their strategy when they dumped Kev. Their biggest nightmare wasn’t losing the election with Gillard, it was winning the election with Kevin.

    Their strategy now is very similar. Quite simply they would rather give up government (and retain their privelidges and all that goes with it) than share it with the Greens. Like the NSW Labor party, Federal Labor is shallow and empty with no principle or original thought, seeking only personal rewards and riches without any thought of service to the nation.

  6. Gillard is finished. She offered much and provided nothing. She disposed of Rudd, not to change the fortunes of the Labor party, but to feed her own ego. Anyone denying this salient fact is a very poor judge of human nature and body language.

    She like many Labor leaders before her, has read the tea leaves wrong. She obviously thinks that everyone on the left lives in a two storey apartment, sends their kids to private schools, with a BMW in the under croft. The working class persona she tried to groom the Australian public with, is as much of a sham as Howards battlers.

    Who ever is advising this women must be a member of the Liberal party.

  7. This image: http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201104/r756197_6313524.jpg. The cliches really write themselves, don’t they? The nihilist faction of the Labor party have won. The mealiest of the Libs (totally wrong as they are) have more verve in their withered souls than in all the Once-gave-a-shit Labor rump, those that haven’t yet become automata of the Sussex St Moloch Machine.

    And yet, their born sense of entitlement to my progressive vote is almost palpable. Fuck ‘em.

  8. You have to laugh. All the talk from the Labor party aided and abetted by the wing nuts about the demise of the Greens, is the irony of all ironies.
    Here we have the fall of the Labor party caused by the very person that could have given it government for the next four terms.

    To add insult to injury, when the electorate does give her the arse, the coalition will take that as the green light to do as they please. The very people on social welfare that are going to help dump this women in fear of their future, are going to be worse off. Yep, the conservatives have played a blinder, getting the Labor party to attack their own base is a Machiavellian plot the extreme.

  9. Why don’t the ALP and Liberals go into coalition? The differences bewteen them are vanishingly small and it would be a win-win situation for them.
    The Libs could dump the National Party (who would never team up with the Greens), and as there was no other party with the numbers to win government we could pretty much eliminate elections; maybe have one every five years for appearance sake.
    I’m not sure what Limited News would write about.

  10. jordanrastrick

    Yeah. What the ALP strategists are really losing sleep over, years out from an election, in the middle of trying to implement a mining tax, carbon tax, poker machine reform, national curriculum, health funding reform, murray darling river basin policy, national broadband network, a free trade agreement with korea, and a military strategy in australia’s longest ever war, whilst dealing with the fallout from riots in immigration detention centers, a sex scandal in ADFA, and a crushing defeat to a conservative swing in the biggest state; what’s got them worried is they were too mean to bob brown, and so no green voting inner city professionals are rushing to write opinion pieces in the SMH or the Age to back them up.

    That’s what is sending julia gillard’s press secretary into fits of despair and anxiety as we speak, for sure.

  11. Preferences from the Greens won Labor the last election jordan. Losing the support of the Greens and alienating any progressives left in the Labor party is probably a bigger deal than you are making it out to be.

    I suspect the droves deserting the Labor ranks at the moment are not all headed towards the Coalition.

    Labor can’t win the next election without support from progressive voters, and Labor can’t beat the Libs at representing selfish right wing arseholes, so skimming support from traditional Coalition voters is not an option.

    And with Abbott running the party, the Coalition (after they win the next election) will be unable to deal with the Greens in any constructive way.

    Considering the Greens hold the balance of power, and are likely to do so for a long time (with our ranks swelling with disaffected Labor voters) i think both major parties should be concerned about “being too mean to Bob Brown”

    Oh also, while i doubt there are journos actually refusing to counter MSM bias against Labor because people were mean to BB, the way Labor have treated the people who got them into power is sure to be eroding the audience/demand for such opinion pieces.

    Its simply a symptom of a much bigger problem.

  12. morganzobean

    Great post, Jeremy – I’ve been thinking along much the same lines, lately.

    Like Ronson and duncan1978, I would be presented with a quandary come next election if the Libs were to re-elect Turnbull as their leader – and I say this as a former ALP true believer who left that party in disgust 10 years ago for the Greens.

  13. “what’s got them worried is they were too mean to bob brown, and so no green voting inner city professionals are rushing to write opinion pieces in the SMH or the Age to back them up.”

    I think you might find that the self-reinforcing “Labor is finished and no-one disagrees” meme will do them a lot more damage than that.

  14. Splatterbottom

    Jordan’s list of ALP disasters has much more to do with the debasement of the brand than loss of support from the ‘base’. Labor’s leftist cadres consisted mainly of hard left and communist activists trying to gain access to power by infiltrating the party. Now those cloud-cuckoos seek that objective by infiltrating the Green’s nest. The ALP should leave them there. The Greens will eventually become less relevant as the idiot element, championed by the likes of Byrne and Rhiannon, discolour traditional green principles with their blood-red madness.

    The ALP is still populated by union hacks and political opportunists whose entire careers have been spent chasing power for its own sake. It does indeed need to get back in touch with its base – the working people of Australia. The inner-urban elitist and faux revolutionaries who flock to the Greens have nothing but contempt for those they refer to as ‘bogans’ and ‘rednecks’.

    This is the same fault line we saw in the recent Price/Behrendt contretemps: “I want what she has for my children”. Labor will not find its base amongst smug urban leftists who seek to impose their idiot solutions on those they purport to help but privately revile. Labor needs to reclaim the centre from the conservatives by giving voice to the concerns of their traditional working class base – those who want for their children what the elites have. They do not want to be an underclass reservoir of votes for welfarist policies which keep them down. The dripping contempt of leftists for ‘aspirationals’ can no longer be disguised. It is time for ordinary people to rise up and throw these conceited turds on the dung-heap of history.

  15. jordanrastrick

    SB, if I’d wanted to list the ALP’s disasters, I would have talked about their internal party governance, the Pink Batts scheme, the East Timor processing centre announcement, the missed opportunities for actual health system reform, Gillard allowing herself to be photographed alongside Keneally in the Federal campaign, the failure to prosecute the case amongst progressives that the Greens screwed up massively on the CPRS, etc.

    My point was to illustrate that the government has a huge number of substantial policy battles on its plate at the moment, most of which are imporant or at least reasonable reforms, and some of which are in pretty dicey territory at the moment regarding public opinion; they sit on a razor thin majority sustained by independents with strongly conflicting interests on certain issues (like pokies’); but the kind of people who tend to vote Greens really seem to think their biggest political problem is the risk of isolating the most left wing portion of the electorate. This is because, like every other other sub-section of the electorate (One Nation voters, Socialist Alliance voters, old people, young people, men, women, etc) they have an overinflated concept of how important their own concerns are in the overall scheme of public policy, how influential their opinions are on everybody else (as opposed to one another), and how much their votes matter in the context of the next election.

  16. As cliched as it is to say this – what we’re seeing now is John Howard’s legacy. More than four years after he left office and Gillard is still fighting against his wedge, and losing.

    Howard’s genius was to recognise the split within Labor’s base on social policy, and to exploit it. Every time he was able to move the national conversation away from economics to things like refugee policy or gay marriage he kept Labor’s base divided and it’s politicians ineffectual. Labor’s resurgence only came after Howard handed them the gift of ‘workchoices’, reminding Australian workers that it is in fact the Right that (using SB’s language) has nothing but contempt for blue collar workers, and the Left that are their friends when it matters.

    Yet Labor seems unaware of this, and Gillard is determined to move play back inside Howard’s wedge by again dragging national focus onto social issues rather than economic ones. It’s bizarre – and monumentally stupid.

    Labor – PLEASE – for your own sake, find an industrial relations policy (or similar) to promote that will take the fight back to the Liberals. By fighting the Greens you are allowing Howard to be your puppet master all over again, and you are almost at the brink of handing him comprehensive and long-lasting victory.

  17. jordanrastrick

    Other than refugees, mondo, would you really say that most of the big fights at the moment are social?

    On my list, for instance, all the rest are economic matters aside from the two military ones.

  18. Gillard’s attempts to ‘distinguish’ Labor from the Greens and woo the blue-collar Labor base have centred on social policy differences – although welfare policy probably crosses into economics.

    They need to abandon all that and pick an economic fight with the Liberals instead – preferably over something that will wedge the conservative vote.

  19. jordanrastrick

    They need to abandon all that and pick an economic fight with the Liberals instead – preferably over something that will wedge the conservative vote.

    The original CPRS had Big Business (and hence a big part of the Liberal’s financial support base) thoroughly split between the Carbon and non-Carbon emitting industries. Sadly the Senate in its enlightened wisdom put paid to that scheme, and now every self-interest group in the country with a Media Officer can get a press release run on the front page of The Australian, demanding adequate compensation for all the wardrobe makers unduly affected by the 0.05% expected rise in their costs.

    Abbott should have got more burned on his make-it-up-as-you-go Parental Leave, but everyone’s forgotten about that by now.

    Labor have already pushed back as far as IR as they can; they’re never going to wedge anyone except themselves by going further on that issue.

    Immigration is a big economic win for the nation as well as for business, but practically no voters understand this, and its political poison to go near it while the refugee issue is still in play.

    If any other potential economic “wedges” occur to you Mondo I’d love to hear them, and I’d sure the PM would as well.

  20. Come on Jordan – the CPRS is a massive “self-wedge” by Labor. It is has exposed the chasm between the priorities of the progressive Left and those of the blue collar working class.

    Gillard is trying to fix this by spurning the progressives on social issues to allign herself with the battlers, but all that is doing is deepening the divide (as well as causing the media phenomenon that Lefty has identified).

    I don’t agree with you about IR. Fighting for workers rights will never be a policial liability for Labor.

  21. jordanrastrick

    Come on Jordan – the CPRS is a massive “self-wedge” by Labor. It is has exposed the chasm between the priorities of the progressive Left and those of the blue collar working class.

    The current carbon price debate is of course a self-wedge, between left wing idealists and pragmatists – more or less Greens/Labor left vs Labor Right. Its not a battle Labor would have chosen to fought this term if the election had delivered a majority government. It may not yet be a fatal problem, but certainly its a high stakes political poker that the government is playing at the moment.

    The original carbon price, although ironically likely to be stronger than what we get now, had broad consensus support; if the Greens and Fielding (or a floor crossing Liberal) had passed it, a second term Rudd government would likely be cruising in the polls as we speak.

    Because electorates only have moods on most issues, and not actual opinions or ideas, politics is often all about timing.

    Gillard is trying to fix this by spurning the progressives on social issues to allign herself with the battlers, but all that is doing is deepening the divide

    If the electorate perceives that Bob Brown is really driving government policy on many key issues, the government is doomed. Reality is sadly irrelevant. Would you prefer Gillard to distance herself from the Greens (and independents for that matter) by splitting with them on the actual policy matters that bind the government coalition together, or by issuing largely meaningless spin on symbolic questions? If she does neither, she will lose the battle for public opinion. If she does the former, she could well lose her house of reps majority. What strategy do you think she should adopt instead?

    I don’t agree with you about IR. Fighting for workers rights will never be a policial liability for Labor

    Of course not. No voters sided with Reith and Howard over the Waterfront dispute. The CFMEU’s brand is spotless amongst the voters of Western Sydney.

  22. narcoticmusing

    I’d rather Gillard call out News Ltd on their lies and propaganda spinning and defend herself rather than spit on her allies.

  23. jordanrastrick

    That’s a nice dream, Narcotic, but governments can’t wage successful wars against the media.

  24. narcoticmusing

    The problem is they don’t even try.

  25. Would you prefer Gillard to distance herself from the Greens (and independents for that matter) by splitting with them on the actual policy matters that bind the government coalition together, or by issuing largely meaningless spin on symbolic questions?

    A good question Jordan, but my answer is neither. I’d rather she address the perception that Bob Brown is dictating to the Government by moving the national focus to new policy battles between Labor and Liberal (and abandoning this silly quest to position Labor as the party that rejects progressive social policy. She should remind everyone that the real contest in Australian politics is an economic one between Labor and Liberal, and not a social one between Labor and the Greens.

    She needs to move the debate forward (pun intended) so that the Labor/Greens alliance is less important/newsworthy than the Labor/Liberal contest of ideas.

  26. narcoticmusing

    Agreed Mondo

  27. Splatterbottom

    What is there for Gillard to defend, Narcotic? She has no redeeming features at all. Her career is a model for up and coming apparatchiks – Australian Union of Students, Socialist Forum, Industrial Lawyer, political staffer, Labor MHR, PM’s assassin. Like so many politicians these days she has all the skills to win office but no ability to govern. To make it to the top she had to jettison all semblance of principled politics and of loyalty and decency. Her policies are a jumble of incongruous positions, a sickening flummery of lies and nonsense. No one believes a word she says.

    Now this haggard hollowed-out shell of a person haunts the political stage unable to remember why she came there. She is hated by all sides for her lies, her betrayals and her utter incompetence as a leader. It is ridiculous to blame News Ltd for stating the bleeding obvious.

  28. jordanrastrick

    but my answer is neither. I’d rather she address the perception that Bob Brown is dictating to the Government

    Which is hard to do when the Greens are so media un-savvy (or worse, only concerned with their own electoral well-being) to claim primary authorship of the current climate change policy, for instance.

    by moving the national focus

    Perhaps we need to pass laws dictating to the media what they are allowed to focus their reporting on?

    to new policy battles between Labor and Liberal

    As Labor already has a huge number of economic policy battles with the Coalition going on, and your only suggestion so far seems to be to go back once again to 2007 anti-Workchoices talking points, I suggest you actually mean old policy battles.

    The old Marxist dichotomy, of the working class versus the idle bourgeois, is an increasingly outdated view of the economic structure of our society. The main fault line in the Western world generally and Australia in particular is increasingly between the comfortable middle class (Jeremy, myself, presumably you) and the plutocratic middle class (Bill Gates). A higher and higher proportion of the workforce are self-employed and/or educated professionals. The capitalists of our society are largely the older generation of home owners; whereas the truly wealthy people all have *jobs*, as hedge fund managers or CEOs, not just the interest from a large, probably inherited fortune.

    The interests of the poorer half of society are often simply no longer aligned with one another, or with the trade unions etc – especially given the disparity of wages between say your average WA mine worker, and a janitor or child care worker in Adelaide.

    You can demand the ALP try to keep fighting politics like we’re living in the 19th or 20th Century til the cows come home, but it won’t change reality.

  29. jordanrastrick

    Her career is a model for up and coming apparatchiks – Australian Union of Students, Socialist Forum, Industrial Lawyer, political staffer, Labor MHR, PM’s assassin. Like so many politicians these days she has all the skills to win office but no ability to govern.

    I love that in a world so specialised that for instance developing software (a 40 year old profession) has countless distinct skill sets for different applications, with so little overlap as to make switching careers nigh on impossible, the cardinal sin of the politician these days is to have been involved in politics for more than a few hours of their spare time over the years.

    Which of the viable candidates for PM would you consider sufficiently un-apparatchik, SB, to be worth voting for?

  30. Splatterbottom

    Malcolm Turnbull. In NSW, Mike Baird.

  31. narcoticmusing

    Ooooh a banker, because we know we can trust bankers :)

  32. jordanrastrick

    I’d trust Turnbull to be PM, and as an ex-lawyer he does only fail at one of SB’s hurdles.

    His problem is a lack of the political skills that SB holds in such contempt, which are kind of important in politics (like it or not). Maybe he’s learned enough from past mistakes to regain leadership of the Liberal Party. If so, I’d certainly consider voting for them.

  33. narcoticmusing

    I just love his Cheshire cat grin myself.

  34. Pingback: When it’s only your opponents who are making noise | Pure Poison

  35. Splatterbottom

    “there is a cost to completely burning your base.”

    Yes. Her bum is on fire and she doesn’t seem to realise it. Maybe it will be a regenerative fire which clears away the dangleberries matted into the undergrowth of her wiry orange arse-hair.

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