Saturday, June 29, 2013

The liberation of disliking both potential Prime Ministers

About a month ago I promised to not mention Kevin Rudd on Twitter again until the election. I was tired the distracting instability talk he was driving, and tired of him. There were bigger issues to discuss, and I was sick of the circular conversation, the countless hours of QandA and column inches that could have been used to enlighten us on something, anything of substance.
It became too much last week, and I gave in. If he could (at long last, openly) go back on his promise to not only never lead the ALP under any circumstances but stand in the way of anyone who threatened Julia Gillard’s, I could break mine.

Even the biggest policy-wonk gets caught up in the personality of politics. Leadership instability was not made up by the press gallery, but they fuelled it. And while commentators like Philip Coorey and Mike Carlton gloated about the fact it was now playing out, I think we’re all the poorer for what has become the focus of politics while some pretty important pieces of legislation – some very good, some very bad – were debated and people like Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott earned relatively little widespread respect for consistently talking about things that matter and attempting to raise the level of public discourse in a genuine, down-to-earth manner. 

Many members of the ALP decided that the end goal of politics is winning elections rather than leading the nation. Sure, you can’t change anything in opposition, but if you won’t effectively lead people in the direction you believe to be right, then what’s the point in even being there?

They chose someone who with a poor record of to managing government and major policy, and who has spent three years sabotaging the party, but who is inconceivably popular. He could very well have used this popularity to help the party if he supported the former Prime Minister as much as he often claimed to, or he could have helped by leaving the place with dignity if he couldn’t find it within himself to put the events of 2010 behind him. What values have the the ALP reinforced by rewarding his behaviour and playing along with the polls they tell us don’t count?

Leaders change in our system, and we do not – despite Kevin Rudd’s own statement upon restoration to the role that the people voted for him in 2007 – elect the Prime Minister. Julia Gillard’s move into the role was not ideal, but at least occurred largely in an effort to improve the management of government.

It already seems Kevin Rudd has lifted the party’s popularity and I’ll give him this: he is good at engaging on a superficial level, which is where most of the Australian political discourse takes place. But that’s what I’d like to change.

Personalities always have and always will matter. They should to some extent, although it's getting out of control now. We want to see someone who reflects our values and can lead. Neither leader of the major parties much demonstrates values or personality traits I admire.

So here’s the silver lining. Having reason to dislike the approach of both leaders takes the personality aspect out of it for me to a large extent, leaving me feeling freer to think and talk critically about their policies.

One of the two will form government and, overall, the ALP policy platform will no doubt again suit my ideology better than the Coalition’s. But I am not going to be ‘getting behind the team’ to keep Tony out. The two men are as bad as each other as far as I can tell, so it’s a good opportunity to forget about which one I like more and focus on what they plan to do.

We deserve better than both of them, and both the parties they lead. 

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