... there’s a belief that Tony Abbott is popular in the suburbs and regions; that his everyman no-nonsense conservatism goes down well with real, everyday, average etc Australians.There’s a more general belief among politics watchers that a politician, particularly an opposition leader, must personally “connect” with key parts of the electorate. It’s rubbish; just think of most successful politicians.In particular—I kid you not—Mark’s ridgy-didge persona was supposed to go down well in Queensland, another demographic at a desperate ebb for the party. But on election day both these swung by larger than average to the Howard government.Abbott is like Latham in that he is the observer’s idea of what works in politics. A real Australian, who could resist a story like that?
But Latham was much more popular. It tends to be forgotten he was at the time the most approved of federal opposition leader in polling history, which means since approval/satisfaction ratings began to be measured in the 1960s.
Latham peaked at 66 per cent satisfied in Newspoll and the last Newspoll of the 2004 campaign registered a healthy 54 per cent. Abbott’s “peak” was 44 in February last year and his most recent one was 33.But Latham was difficult to vote for. Like Abbott is.... Tony’s popularity among some elites and the party faithful is not replicated in the general community.
And like Julia Gillard he probably won’t be leading his party at the next election.
Pollies have taken to a new morally loaded phrase (particularly the ALP and the Greens): it's the ludicrous predication of "being on the right side of history" - used as an admonishment, a sanctimonious threat or judgment upon anyone who disagrees with their policies - as if any of us, let alone politicians, have a crystal ball or have a say in determining what history writes.
The only history we can be sure of, before it's written, is that Gillard and Abbott are a shocking stain on Australian Federal politics, and this will go down as one of the most damaging policy periods we have ever seen. The mess will take a massive effort - possibly decades - to undo.
The only other bit of history, not yet written: neither Gillard nor Abbott will front the next election in the capacity of leaders of their respective parties. They will be recorded as the most uninspiring, least intellectually and morally capable, and most disliked leaders we have had the misfortune to endure. (Predication: when they are both gone, expect lots of journalists to tap into their retrospective wisdom to write, at length, exactly that.)
Is Abbott popular?