For some time now I’ve wondered how Anna Bligh has turned-up to work every day and looked so calm, cool and collected, like everyone’s favourite mum, for the media.
She knows, as the rest of the state knows, that on March 25, 2012, it will all be over. Running a campaign knowing that you have no hope is a heavy psychological burden. If she visualises her audience when she stares down the barrel of the camera she must see at best pity, and at worst hate and revulsion, in their eyes.
That could be one explanation of her bizarre prediction that Newman will go to jail and her refusal yesterday to withdraw when she had the chance.
The other explanation is that she went too far in the heat of the moment, which is what I initially thought.
But thinking harder the jail allegation has been implicit in some of the other things she’s been saying about Campbell Newman.
In her presser after announcing the election she said in response to a question:
Frankly I do not believe that Campbell Newman is up to the job. I don’t believe he is a fit person to lead Queensland and the contest is going to be a very fiercely contested one. It’ll be one where people go to the ballot knowing anything they need to know about what this Commission of Inquiry says.
The term “fit person” suggests moral turpitude, not merely incompetence, and suggests that she has been seeing Newman through a lens of moral disapproval for a while.
This would not be an unnatural reaction to the fact that she is about to be beaten in an election, but doesn’t believe that she deserves to be. In such a situation it is easy to project extreme fantasies of unworthiness on to your opponent.
It makes it easier to justify your loss to yourself – they won by foul means because they are a bad person – and it also makes it easier to summon up the will to do whatever it takes to stop them winning.
As well it plays into a very old election narrative of Labor in Queensland – that the Nationals and Liberals are corrupt. It won them an election in 1989 off the back of the Fitzgerald commission, despite the fact that the accusation against the Liberals was not only wrong, it was completely and demonstrably baseless.
Yet in 1989 they got the electorate to buy the charge that the Liberals were corrupt like the Nationals even though it had been the Liberals, not Labor, who had fought against National Party corruption, which was the reason they were on the cross bench and not in coalition.
You can see history replaying in her mind when she said yesterday:
I may well have been a little passionate yesterday – a little too passionate perhaps – but I’m driven by an anger when I see this sort of stuff; it is fishy…
I grew up in a Queensland that everybody in the country knew was crooked and when I see any whiff, any whiff, of a return to a crooked Queensland I do get angry.
Political parties tend to fight the last campaign in the current election.
Back in 1995 when I was a key state Liberal Party strategist and tactician it made it easier to fight and win the election campaign because we knew almost exactly what was coming. We’d seen the same campaign in 1989 and 1992.
If the Coalition had fought that election as they had the previous two, it would have been successful for Labor, so it wasn’t a foolish strategy, just wrong.
17 years later not only is it foolish, but one suspects it has become hard-wired into the Labor reflex, so that a premier under extreme pressure with her psyche starting to disintegrate, can’t help but repeat the mantra.