Election campaign planners, those sinister backroom operatives trying to manipulate public opinion, have a few rules they break at their peril — and one of them is never to program an outdoor rally for their candidate to speak at.
There are two key reasons for this: The first is the distorted sound quality from a public address system makes for terrible listening over radio and television. Even the best speakers sound as if they are shouting — and raised voices frighten ordinary people in their living rooms.
That reinforces the potential damage of the second reason. Standing before a cheering crowd of thousands gets the adrenalin pumping and when a politician is in full flight there is a danger that the script will be departed from and something undesirable shouted forth.
The Kevin Rudd team broke the no-outdoor-rally rule yesterday when their man took part in Brisbane’s annual May Day parade. Showing solidarity with the workers is one thing, but the picture of a Labor leader marching along in a street parade really did have a back to the future look. That on its own would not have created a huge negative image, but then came the words which did.
In the written version of his speech that appears on the ALP website, Rudd concluded his remarks in this way:
To build that prosperity, to make sure we have a fair go and that is what we’ll do with this election and we’ll need you to help us get there this October and I know and I have every confidence you’ll be with us right thought to that day. I thank you one and all.
They were considered and moderate words right on the consistent Labor strategy of repeating over and over again that John Howard, as a great and tricky and very experienced politician, was going to be very difficult to beat, whatever the opinion polls might be saying.
Unfortunately for those campaign strategists, the words that came out of the mouth of the leader were quite different from the script. As television news viewers saw last night, the concluding call to the crowd of 30,000 Labor Day marchers was:
And I’ll say to you friends one and all, win this election we will.
Which this morning brought forth headlines like this one in the Melbourne Herald Sun: “Kevin Rudd gets cocky“.
Rudd was quite fairly reported as talking and looking like a man who believes this election campaign is as good as over and that he will certainly be prime minister by year’s end. That most definitely was not on strategy for a party that knows it will maximise its vote by pretending to the end that this election will be a close-run thing.