John Howard is back to being clever and cunning. Kevin Rudd was careful yesterday to tell us so. “Whatever the electorate thinks of Mr Howard’s policies, he is still a very clever and cunning politician.” That, according to The Australian, is what the Opposition Leader will be telling his caucus when he comments on the latest Newspoll. “There is a mood for change, but history is against us. We are up against a very clever politician.”

Not all that clever and cunning if you are inclined to believe what the pollsters are telling us. Dragging the wife of the Labor Leader into the debate on industrial relations has not worked any immediate miracle. Rather, it has sent the forecast Labor vote rebounding upwards. This year, the Government has polled worse every time it mounts a personal attack.

Labor is playing the denigration game in what voters see as a far more intelligent manner. Janette Howard certainly does not get a mention and the word clever used about her husband has been cleverly redefined to take on a meaning of too clever by half. We wrote about the new usage of the combination of Howard and clever back in early March and in early May we noted Labor was adding the descriptors mean, tricky and desperate to the clever politician tag.

The reshaping of the prime ministerial image appears to be working. Along with all the other major pollsters, Newspoll now has Kevin Rudd as the preferred prime minister while the performance of Howard as Prime Minister is disapproved of by more people than those who approve of it.

Peter Fray

Help us keep up the fight

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today and get your first 12 weeks for $12.

Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey