July 18, 2006 | Graham

Is leadership speculation helping Howard?

“Disunity is death” – like all cliches it’s just as likely to be wrong if applied in the wrong context. Today’s Newspoll provides arguable proof that the Liberal Party leadership tussle might actually be helping the government.
There are a number of possible explanations for the poll result. One is that the positive move to the Coalition in the two-party-preferred vote of 1% is well within the margin of error of the poll, so nothing has changed. But even nothing changing is news in itself if you think the disagreement between Howard and Costello is going to effect the vote.
Another explanation is that “disunity is death” only when the leadership of your party is perceived as weak. Howard’s challenger is seen as having no chance, and this actually enhances Howard’s leadership standing. And it is Howard’s perceived ability to deliver what he promises that most people value when they vote for him.
The conflict also makes people think harder about their voting choices than they might normally, making a poll taken in these circumstances a bit more like the real thing. Most observers think that Howard will win the next election (as indeed do the betting markets), so perhaps the polls are just measuring things more accurately because of current events.
And as Oscar Wilde said, “The only thing worse than people talking about you, is when they’re not talking about you.” The Costello non-challenge has directed attention back at the Liberals and away from Labor, taking the focus from IR, where Labor was winning the battle.
Labor has a good chance of winning the next election if they keep clear of discussion of leadership (an issue which Howard owns, compared to Kim Beazley) and keep the debate on IR (an issue which Howard can’t win). When Parliament resumes they’d be best advised to resist the temptation to stir Peter Costello and get back on message.

Posted by Graham at 2:34 pm | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

  1. I definetly believe the leadership tussle will help Howard’s approval rating. Voters lulled into a sense of Howard ‘infinity’ have just realised how much they want him to stay. In the long term however, they definetly need to repair Costello’s standing. He still is the best of the rest after all.

    Comment by Ben Dullroy — July 19, 2006 @ 8:48 pm

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