My thoughts on ‘Rich Dude becomes PM’, backstabbing and Gillard

September 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

An article on The Daily Life appeared which alleged that Australia will forgive Turnbull for backstabbing Abbott in a way Gillard never was, because Turnbull is male and did it second. I disagree, although this is just my personal view on the matter. While I believe that Gillard was, in many instances, criticised differently because she was a female prime minister, I think that the way I (at least) perceived the Labor spill had less to do with gender biases and just more to do with the political context.

Maybe I paid less attention to politics during the Labor leadership spill, but I remember being very surprised when Gillard challenged Rudd. Perhaps I wasn’t following the polls, if I had, I would’ve known that Rudd was trailing. Interestingly, I don’t follow the polls now either, but I don’t have to follow them to know that Abbott is very much disliked by the nation. I put it down to the fact that on camera, Rudd looked and sounded like a much more able politician and legitimate leader than Abbott. So, first and foremost, it felt like Gillard had deposed someone whom I thought was capable. On the other hand, Turnbull has just deposed someone whom I always thought was incompetent.

Secondly, besides trailing in the polls, Rudd had lost the support of his party because of his authoritarian working style. I never realised this until after the spill. While party members might feel this keenly, the rest of the electorate doesn’t have this insight. In this sense, I felt a bit blindsided by the spill. On the other hand, Abbott had clearly failed the people, and his party openly gave him six months to turn things around before his leadership would be challenged. It’s probably easier to forgive something you can foresee.

Thirdly, this is not Turnbull’s first leadership challenge. His intention to be the Liberal party leader has therefore always been present (and I imagine this is where most of the ‘it always meant to be you’ comments are coming from). This is probably why some people have called this a ‘frontstab’ rather than a backstab. On the other hand, Labor worked really hard to market Rudd and Gillard as the dream team in the 2007 election, for this reason, I always thought they supported each other, which makes Gillard’s leadership challenge hard to reconcile.

Naturally, this is the second leadership spill and Liberal is in the lucky position of being able to learn from Labor’s mistakes. I also think however, that part of the reason why Australia sees Gillard as a backtabber is because the Liberal Party did such a good (and relentless) job of selling that notion. Labor Party, take heed.

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