The front page of today’s Australian newspaper and its reporting of the latest Newspoll has prompted a range of reactions, from shock at the sheer mendacity of its main headline ”Howard checks Rudd’s march” to muffled awe at the paper’s continuing ability to pluck some shred of glass-half-full optimism from the ongoing cataclysm of the Liberal Party’s federal polling. All of which is no more or less than one might expect from the country’s unofficial conservative organ.

The surprising thing about the page is really in the photograph, an image of John Howard taken yesterday during a visit to a NSW aged-care facility. What, you have to ask, are his minders thinking? Is the juxtaposition of our aging and politically infirm PM with the apparatus of geriatric care likely to be a political plus? Especially when, as is the case in The Australian’s photograph, he seems to be the oldest person in the room?

Time for a spry early morning powerwalk, PM — though probably not in the new Wallabies man-boob jersey — and some fresh advice.

Part of which might be keeping an eye on Rupert Murdoch. Having The Australian on side is one thing, keeping the Murdoch tabloids quiet may be quite another.

Here Howard might want to heed the advice Paul Keating apparently offered  Tony Blair as reported by former British Labour advisor Alastair Campbell: “On Murdoch, he told TB: ‘He’s a big bad bastard, and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure he thinks you can be a big bad bastard too. You can do deals with him, without ever saying a deal is done. But the only thing he cares about is his business and the only language he respects is strength’.”

Same goes for the Daily Telegraph. So keep out of old folks’ homes.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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