The ALP has been getting on message just recently, the whole front bench is currently singing from the same hymn sheet across a wide array of media denominations. It’s a post budget moment for sure, selling the budget is part of the job, and yes it’s also the scary-Tony strategy. Whoooooahhhhh! Tony’s gonna get ya! Be that as it may, with the whole front bench wheeling out trifling focus group tested catchphrases (Ay, caramba!) it is also a very clear sign that the ALP is proceeding toward September as if it is still 1998.
In those glorious days of the last Keating government the tone was set by Mark Textor and his ability to grab the backyard bbq-area clichés and turn them into political motivations that can be both offensive and defensive. It was Mark Textor and his faux-suburbanite couple (Dave and Belinda, or something like that) who plotted the downfall of Keating, crushing him like a vast cicada shell.
Textor had a great knack for turning phrases into shields and shrugs, apathy into disinclination, and mistrust into caricature. In 1996 he beat Keating, and 1998 he beat Beazley, by simply and plainly out thinking the ALP. It was Textor who famously built the formula: “We will stop the boats, stop the big new taxes, end the waste, and pay back the debt.” That formula held power for over a decade, pretty much unchallenged.
Unsurprisingly, the ALP reckoned this was the way to go, jumping on the focus group, road tested sound bite modus operandi. They haven’t let it go, despite it being just shy of two decades since King Paul decided not to go with Shostakovich’s Gadfly Suite as his personal theme tune (I think he went with some Mahler, but I’ll check). Rudd’s victory in 2007 used roughly the same technique: “new leadership”; Howard had “lost touch” and was “irresponsible.” Not heavyweight analysis but good enough for a bit of chitchat on Sunrise.
It’d be good if the ALP came up with something a bit more interesting to attract the voter, or something a bit more substantial to sustain the faithful but listening to the front bench on the radio over the last week it’s clear that the ALP are still fighting Howard, on Howard’s ground. Reckon they’ll lose again.