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.