Last week’s Galaxy poll, which found Maxine McKew leading the Prime Minister in his seat of Bennelong 52 to 48 was generally interpreted as great news for Labor and bad for John Howard. In fact it was — inasmuch as you can take anything from an individual poll — the opposite.

Since January, published opinion polls have been conducted nationally and in all sorts of places, for example in Adelaide marginals and in Queensland. They have all shown pretty much the same thing: a swing to Labor of about ten points or more on the 2004 result. This week’s Newspoll put the swing at 12. Probably if someone polled the Treasurer’s seat of Higgins — margin 9% — right now they would find him losing.

But Bennelong, according to Galaxy, registered just a six percent improvement on the 2004 Labor vote of 46. Compare that with the Crikey/Morgan poll from February, before McKew’s candidacy was announced, which had Labor ahead in Bennelong 55 to 45.

Rudd will almost certainly not get 57 to 43 or anything like it at the election. His numbers will head earthwards before then, and for McKew to have a chance in Bennelong, her support in these inflated days needs to be better.

One of the enduring myths of politics sees “famous” or “talented” people flying in to win marginal seats. The record suggests the opposite, that celebrities annoy at least as many people as they excite. Personal votes are built up by incumbents
The value of a McKew — or a Peter Garrett, Malcolm Turnbull, Greg Combet or Andrew Robb – lies is what they bring to the team once they’re elected.

If Labor had really wanted to knock Howard off in Bennelong, they shouldn’t have put their intentions up in lights. Instead, they could have plonked Maxine in uber-safe Fowler, and put on the streets of Ryde someone with lower profile but energy and shoe leather to burn.

Softly, softly, catchee monkey.