Friday, 13 March 2009

It's All About Strategy

Last night was my local ALP branch meeting, and the old campaign war horses sat around the tables looking as tired as I felt. A week out from polling day it seems we all felt the same way and wished polling day was tomorrow. For more reasons than one we have a gut feeling that we will not only lose all the seats on the Sunshine Coast, (again) but we will probably lose government too. For me at least, the sense of doom is made all that much worse by the fact that the probable loss of the ALP is all the doing of the party, and not based on the strength of the Opposition.

This election has been squandered because the overall tactics of the campaign strategists have been downright terrible. All campaigns have an overall theme. Kevin Rudd was all about ‘New Leadership’ in 2007, John Howard spoke ‘For All of Us’ in 1996, even Mark Latham had his ‘Ladder of Opportunity’. This year Anna Bligh talks about ‘Keeping the Economy Strong’. Translation: ‘We like what we’re already doing, vote for us if you want more of the same’. This is not the message a party should be sending after being in power for 11 years. Voters in Australia don’t vote for more of the same after 11 years, they want something dynamic.

Instead why not pitch Anna Bligh as a completely different leader to that of her predecessor? Superficially she is different from Peter Beattie. She is from the ALP Left, she is a woman, she is an inner city suburban dwelling ‘working mum’, whereas Beattie was the larrikin boy from the bush, from the Centre of the ALP who you could take to the footy, and had the potential to knock a few heads together if need be. This is chalk and cheese, not more of the same.

The campaign could have been built around the theme that Bligh knows what it takes to confront the odds, (both personally and politically) to lead the government in unreliable economic times. More importantly she has a different approach to achieve this, by being socially, environmentally and economically responsible, creating ‘New Pathways for the Future’.

To me ‘New Pathways for the Future’ emphasises all that Bligh has going for her without trashing the Beattie legacy. This would allow Bligh to project a new, vital image of a leader who can respond to the problems of the present and challenges for the future. It could also open up the ALP to the Greens a bit more, (including abandoning the Traveston) rather than the current mess the party faces now where we are preferencing them in all 89 seats and the Greens are giving the ALP scant regard in just 12 seats. This strategy also allows the opportunity for the ALP to run a mostly positive campaign.

The conventional wisdom of the campaign should have been to completely ignore the LNP, as Springborg is an horrendous campaigner (as has been proven this time around too) and the only angle of attacks should be focussed upon party unity. Even now do the voters of Queensland know who will be holding the key portfolios in his Cabinet? As it stands the campaign ads have been far too negative and have been focusing on Springborg rather than the fractured party he leads. When the party has attempted to stray from this formula it is using a pale imitation of the Kevin 07 strategy.

Anna says: ‘…protecting jobs is in Labor’s DNA’

Kevin says: ‘...being an economic conservative is in my DNA’

The Queensland ALP says: ‘Sorry Mr Springborg you won’t get my vote’

The Federal ALP says: ‘Sorry Mr Howard you won’t get my vote’

Tired strategies from a tired campaign.

The only consolation I take from a probable LNP victory is that they won’t have much of a majority, and combined with their own internal struggles they will struggle to govern effectively for the next three years. Unfortunately that doesn’t help the people of Queensland, because given the quality of the two campaigns thus far neither major party deserves to lead the state.

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