Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Death of a Narrative: Part 3

A narrative-less election

We heard all about how badly Gillard/Labor mismanaged the election. And, if the Libs are honest, they botched it too.

The Libs would have everyone believe that they were happy just to see Abbott almost topple a first term government, but to follow their argument to a logical conclusion, realistically Abbott should have won easily. Given Gillard's tarnished name, and the problems associated with her trying to take any claim for the goals Rudd had kicked, he should have been a shoe in.
Gillard, for her part, was so bound in her minders' tape she couldn't have sold beer at a pub (or a shandy to Abbott). This was a battle of two opposition leaders without a coherent new policy between them.

Neither side had a cohesive political narrative.

The best Abbott could muster was a bit of "you think Rudd was Howard-lite? Look at these policies!" accompanied with a healthy serve of apolitical "tough man" antics including his aim to not sleep in the last days of the election. Given Rudd was criticised for sleeping less than 4 hours a night and working pretty much consistently, not involving his colleagues in his processes, in hindsight it seems his goal may have been to out-Rudd Gillard.

If you want a clearer picture that this was an election where neither of the major parties had a narrative, look at the swing to the Greens. Whether you agree with their policies or not, the Greens are a narrative party - consistently. While I struggle with people who suggest that never having had power immediately equals policy weakness (hello everyone at The Australian), there' s some truth to this in the fact that the Greens have not had to be pragmatic - their policies are bold, and follow a clear direction because they can. Realistically, prior to the "rainbow coalition" any chance of any of their policies being passed was a pipe dream.

And the result? What happens when you tell a story but there's no actual narrative?

Well it's a mess; no one knows what's going on. An election is not an exercise in experimental prose.

Narrative found

Ironically, it may be Gillard has found her strength, and her narrative, in minority government. She is, to borrow Annabel Crabb's term, a fixer. She is presented now with a magnificent opportunity to play school teacher to a rag-tag bunch of new parliamentarians, or at least parliamentarians who are new to actual power.

If she plays her cards right, she can take the credit for their innovation as she remains the masthead for the activity of the government. In turn, she can also blame the failings of her government on the close numbers.

The knife-edge may provide a comfortable seat to a fence-sitter like Gillard.

The new paradigm, as it's been called, is actually a little bit more like the old paradigm of politics. Policy and its implementation should be at the forefront of political reporting. The personalities are important, as are the tactics, but it's the policies that should make or break a government, not foibles of its leaders - with the exception of actual ministerial culpability.

The media should be reporting when either party "plays the man" rather than the ball, not following suit for an easy story.

There's a new narrative, people, and a new paradigm; they're both more complex. Long live complexity.


Alright... now all that's done. I'm returning to the day to day. I hated that post by the end, but I feel like I had to get it off my chest.

Let's commence.

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