Maxine McKew is a model of educated elegance – well mannered, well spoken and beautifully dressed. An identikit representative if Labor is trying to present itself to the tertiary educated working women and men of the nation’s central business districts with a keen interest in political events.

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd persuaded McKew to join his staff as an adviser and she will surely blend in well with his own intellectual interests. Undoubtedly she will provide a cultured and thoughtful touch to his forthcoming policy pronouncements. Now there is increasing speculation that McKew will graduate from being a mere political consultant to a candidate, with Gerard McManus writing in today’s Herald Sun that Labor insiders say she could be installed in the Sydney outer western suburbs seat of Fowler.

Prime Minister John Howard has a different taste in women. His Liberal Party has seen the advantage of having women in vote-winning positions but has forsaken elegance for a more down-to-earth style like that of Jackie Kelly in Lindsay and Joanna Gash in Gilmore. Both have proved considerable assets as Howard has positioned himself to win the support of the aspirational workers.

It makes for an interesting contrast in campaigning styles – Rudd appealing to a different level to Howard’s. To me McKew brings a touch of the Whitlamesque to the Rudd machine. It is yet to be seen if it’s time to pass beyond the battlers.

Peter Fray

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