THERE is only one question to be answered when deciding whether the Labor caucus should replace Julia Gillard with Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister: Has the leopard changed his spots?
I wish it were not so. In an ideal world Ms Gillard would be permitted to build on the terrific policy achievements of the Labor Government then go to the people for a further endorsement of the program.
And they are major achievements – from the apology to the stolen generations to the finessing of the GFC, from paid maternity leave to better health and education, from the NBN to a tremendous upgrading of our infrastructure, from decent IR laws to a fairer tax system. Indeed, everywhere you look this government has come up with the goods.
But the stark fact of political life is that Ms Gillard has not won over the electorate. She came to the job in a way that offended our sense of fair play. And in all the days since, she has not been able to make that all important emotional connection with the voters. Her capacity to do so has now virtually passed – she’d have to rescue a baby from a burning building to achieve a viable approval rating.
At the same time – as revealed in “CityNews” months ago – Kevin Rudd has been following a carefully calibrated timetable to undermine her position and force her from The Lodge, in the sure and certain knowledge that he is the only viable contender to replace her.
So, has he changed? Or will we see a replay of Kevin the Unready, of chaotic decision making, absurd time-management, government by fear, media manipulation, infantilised expression (happy, little Vegemite) and Whitlamesque arrogance?
Clearly, he has been through what to most people would be a life-changing experience. Only a fool would not take the lessons to heart and resolve to present a very different persona if the opportunity ever arose again. And I think we can agree that Rudd is highly intelligent. But has he changed? Alas, the answer is no… or at least he has shown absolutely no evidence of it.
Admittedly, he’s somewhat circumscribed in what he can say publicly lest he be seen to be making an overt play for the top job. But he has shown no propensity at all to broaden his approach, to seek advice from the wise heads of the community or to cultivate people prepared to tell him the unvarnished truth about his weaknesses and blind spots. Instead, in the closed circle of his few intimates it remains “my way or the highway”.
How could this be so? The truth is that he never did experience that vital 40 days and nights in the wilderness that might have effected a genuine change. Instead, he opted for the ego-soothing rituals of Foreign Minister while he plotted his comeback.
All very sad.
However, when and if he does return to The Lodge he will at least give Labor a fighting chance at the election. And if that means deliverance from the horror of Abbott PM, I guess that’s some consolation.