The Graham Perrett threat to quit parliament if Julia Gillard is rolled probably makes only a miniscule difference to whether we will get an early election, but it does strengthen the hand of Kevin Rudd in the tussle for the ALP leadership.
It’s really a non-story. and is only a story because it is a story. That last sentence doesn’t make any sense to you?
Put it like this. I wouldn’t be writing about it if the mainstream media hadn’t decided to report it. You get plenty of mad backbenchers who say ridiculous things. In a mature polity what they say would be ignored. They hardly speak for anyone, sometimes not even themselves.
Mr Perrett appears, at least for today, to be in that category, so I would have normally tended to ignore him.
On a day when there are important things, like the carbon tax and the Malaysian solution to be talking about, the ill-considered remarks of an obscure backbencher, which given a chance he would probably retract, only rate because the government hangs on a slender thread which could be cut by any number of barely-balanced MPs.
Even then his comments are barely substantial because they rest not on a matter of real principal, but on an imagined one – that at the last election each party was bound to stick with the leader that they took to the election – and on a hypothetical proposition – that Julia Gillard will be rolled.
But because of the media attention Mr Perrett’s outburst probably makes the latter proposition less hypothetical as it steals momentum from the government and contributes to the impression that Gillard can’t control anything, which all things being equal, will help to keep her poll rating down.
It also advances the cause of Kevin Rudd.
If Rudd were to succeed in his campaign to undermine the PM, he is likely to call an election immediately. There would be no incentive to hang around because last time he was prime minister, the more people got to see him, the less they liked him. Why should this time be any different?
A successfully resurrected Rudd would need to go to the polls immediately before voters remembered why they turned-off last time, so Perrett’s threat, even if taken seriously, has no effect on Rudd’s prospects, and rather than causing a by-election Perrett will depart at a general one.
It does affect every other potential challengers prospects, however, because all of the other potential contenders, including Simon Crean, would need time to build up their profile as PM, and a Perrett resignation would deny them that opportunity.
So, whether he intended it or not, Perrett makes a Rudd rebirth just a little more likely, but only because he was reported and given significance that he didn’t deserve.