July 17, 2006 | Graham

Trust trumps truth again

According to the AC Nielsen survey in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, 46% of Australians believe Peter Costello’s story on the leadership deal compared to 35%who believe Howard, yet 63% prefer Howard as prime minister compared to only 25% for Costello.
It’s the relationship between these two figures that explains why the deal was no deal. There may have been a deal, or there may not have, but that is of minor consequence to most Australians for whom the question of whether the country is well-run is more important than whether John Howard is telling the truth.
Indeed, it goes a bit further than that. In the world of political deal-making a promise to do something in the medium future, like the one that Howard may have made to Costello, is moderated by what the circumstances are at the time that the promise matures. No reasonable front-bencher would expect to be able to hold Howard to a promise if the effect of doing that is that the government would lose the next election, yet that would have been the likely outcome of Howard relinquishing the leadership to Costello at the nominated time, 6 years ago, and would still be now.
And this is a condition which needs to be read into the fine print of any “deal” that Costello and Howard were making 12 years ago, and is in fact embodied in the Treasurer’s recollection of Howard’s words which were prefaced with the phrase “It is my intention that…”.
The public sense this, even if they don’t articulate it. Hence, even if they think Howard’s view is wrong, they still back him for Prime Minister.
It’s another variation of the argument between “truth” and “trust” that ran through the last election. While some, like Costello, put their faith in words, others, like Howard, put theirs in action. Most of us do.

Posted by Graham at 9:42 am | Comments Off on Trust trumps truth again |
Filed under: Australian Politics

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