The Honeymoon is over

In the wake of today’s disastrous Newspoll Opposition Senate Leader Nick Minchin has once again rolled out a variation of the same excuse that the Coalition have been using to explain opinion polls since Kevin Rudd took the leadership of the Federal ALP in December 2006 “…the Government is obviously going through a honeymoon, newly-elected governments go through this sort of honeymoon…”.

Is there actually any truth to what Nick Minchin is saying?

Throughout Rudd’s time as opposition leader the LNP Coalition seemed unable to come to terms with the popularity that he had. The honeymoon excuse got trotted out again and again, with the Coalition seemingly of the opinion that all they needed to do was tarnish Kev’s bright sheen and they would be returned to the benches on the right of the Speaker. As we all know, their repeated attempts to smear Rudd backfired spectacularly time and time again and left the LNP in chaos going into an election that they would ultimately lose.

So three months after the election, with Rudd’s preferred PM numbers setting new records, the Coalition still seem to be unable to get past this “Honeymoon” explanation. Senator Minchin’s contention bears some analysis, so I’ll beg your indulgence to put the quality humour cheap jokes aside for a moment and take a little history lesson from Newspoll.

The 2004 Election was an embarrassment for the ALP, with the blame mostly laid at the feet of ‘crazybrave’ leader Mark Latham. Despite this result, and the ensuing vivisection of Latham’s leadership, his preferred PM figures in the aftermath never dropped below the mid 20s, a range that Kim Beazley then slightly improved upon. By contrast, Howard’s figures peaked at 60 and dropped off as soon as Latham was removed from the picture, which is hardly a ringing endorsement. Source

Following Kim Beazley’s 2001 defeat, his second, Simon Crean was elected leader of the ALP and was almost instantly dismissed by the nation’s media. Simon Crean didn’t appear to be leadership material and was an easy target for a reinvigorated Government. Crean’s PPM numbers started out in the high teens, but fairly quickly moved into the mid 20s. Howard’s PPM figures did not reach 60 on this occasion and quickly dropped to the low 50s, despite the impact of 9/11 and Tampa playing to Howard’s perceived policy strengths. Source

There doesn’t seem to be any Newspoll data for ’98 so we’ll move right on to ’96. If Nick Minchin’s “Honeymoon” theory is true we would expect that ’96 would give us results like today’s Newspoll as there had just been a change in government. However in ’96 Howard’s PPM was only in the mid 50s, while the new opposition leader, Kim Beazley, had a PPM score of 22. Where was Howard’s Honeymoon? Why weren’t Beazley’s PPM numbers in single figures? Source

The explanation of today’s Newspoll as simply reflecting the new government’s honeymoon period, and its adverse on the opposition leaders numbers, isn’t supported by history. The conservative politicians in this country cannot seem to get their head around the fact that the problem isn’t with the Australian public, it’s with them. While the Coalition were in government they simply refused to acknowledge, at least publicly, that Rudd’s momentum was anything other than novelty. If they continue to carry on with this wrong headed thinking they will not only spend a long time in opposition, they will fail to even be a decent opposition, looking for stunts and smears to finally bring down Kev will not get them back into power or hold the government accountable.

Sorry Nick, you failed to sort out the last leader, you picked the wrong option for a new one, and you still seem incapable of understanding the electoral appeal of your opponent, enjoy your time in the cheap seats.

8 thoughts on “The Honeymoon is over

  1. Ed, I have no doubts that privately the Libs would be looking for new strategies, but unless they start to make changes publicly they will be in serious trouble. Their performances thus far in question time and estimates do not look like a party planning to re-take government.

  2. Perhaps Minchin is talking about the honeymoon that he is enjoying as an opposition spokesman. He sounds quite reasoned compared to his stable mates of Pyne and Abbott.

  3. The Libs can’t handle being in opposition. They never have. Look at the period from 83 to 96, where they played ‘let’s recycle the leader’. Howard was just dumb lucky to get another go at the right time thanks to the inept Downer and Costello’s unwillingness (read, lack of guts) to take the job that was his for the asking.

    It took a major recession for the Libs to finally get back in, and even then they blew the first opportunity in 93. And that’s what it will take for them to return to power again.

    I can’t see a major recession (not early 90s style anyway) on the horizon, so I’d say it’ll be going on 2020 before they return … with Sophie!

    PS: Prediction subject to RBA board ‘geniuses’ not engineering a recession via more unnecessary interest rate hikes.

  4. I know Latham was a nutter, but frankly from the moment he called Howard an “arse licker” he secured my vote!

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