Parliament’s up until Budget week now. The polls are grim. “If the Budget sinks like a stone, then the argument that the Coalition will have already lost will be clinched,” Mark Bahnisch wrote recently. Or is that just a little too simple?

Are nice, polite, middle-class Liberal voters punishing the government for putting the boot too hard into Kevin Rudd? Do these people feel sorry for the Ruddster, turned off by the extent of the negative campaign against him?

Many people round the House are pointing the finger at Tony Abbott for his SMH piece on Rudd’s personal narrative.

That’s unfair. Everyone seems to have ignored his conclusion: “Rudd’s real test won’t be how he handles consorting allegations. It will be explaining how it’s possible to tear up workplace agreements and halve greenhouse gas emissions without sabotaging the economy. Politicians can’t win holiness contests and shouldn’t try.”

The bloke who really did the damage was the Treasurer. His shrill hyperbole in Question Time ridiculously raised the ante and sacked Ian Campbell. His frustrations are damaging the Government.

Labor has no scruples about going in hard. Just look at Morris Iemma’s campaign against Peter Debnam. Their traditional supporters lap it up.

Liberal voters, though, just don’t like the mean and nasty – particularly many Liberal voters in what should be blue ribbon territory. This isn’t just a doctors’ wives thing. It’s a matter of manners, more than anything.

These voters feel outraged our disgusted by the behaviour of their own. They feel the Government should “stick to the issues” or “campaign on their record”, that “people don’t deserve this kind of treatment”.

The Liberals low primary vote in all the polls is a symptom of this.

From now on, though, the growing focus will be on the Budget. If the government can assemble something decent – and flog it properly – just watch those numbers climb. (Of course, if they don’t, then it’s every Coalition MP for themselves.)

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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