Even before today’s Newspoll put the government 20 points behind in the two-party preferred vote, ministerial staff were saying they were done for. Or are they?

Back in 2004, conservative forces in the United States tackled John Kerry’s biggest strength, his status as a decorated war hero, and turn him into a weak, anti-military liberal.

IR is nothing compared to that. The Liberals should be able to do it. It’s just that they mightn’t have the staff with the right level of acumen and aggression needed for the job.

An odd mood has set in around the government. Senior staff tell you how Arthur Sinodinos, the PM’s former chief of staff, is missed. His replacement, Tony Nutt, is respected as a fixer, but doesn’t measure up on the policy front. He lacks the antennae.

Mutterings are developing, too, about Brian Loughnane, the Liberal’s federal director. He’s rude. He’s too introverted. He doesn’t know what makes voters tick. 

There’s even some extraordinary thinking aloud that the prime minister, despite what he said last week, has one rabbit left – and an escape route that will let him get out before an election. Not that anyone actually has a clue what it might be. They just expect him to have one. He’s John Howard, after all.

It’s not a good state for a government to be in.

If Labor got what the Saturday Newspoll predicted the Libs would be a rump, an old Labor hand told me yesterday. When I asked this morning if the latest figures would make them a well done rump I got this response: “More like scrag end of neck than rump”.

The Liberals are already worrying about who will be available to lead them if they get a walloping.

And the polls may well get worse. It’s more than probable that Kevin Rudd will get another personal boost after the events surrounding his wife’s business.

Surely this is the week that “leaked Liberal polling” showing voters reacting warmly to the WorkChoices changes and disapproving of Labor’s IR plans and the double standard surrounding Therese Rein should be turning up in the media. Surely there has to be Liberal polling out there somewhere telling that story. Somewhere.

Or perhaps no journalist soft enough to run it has been found.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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