Another day and another bad poll leave the Prime Minister with just two choices. He can either be very zen or do an Alfred E Neuman. The zen act is probably more befitting a man of his age and status.

Not that it’s an easy task. Take yesterday’s “extraordinary war cabinet crisis meeting” stories. They must have rattled marginal members.

But if it’s an extraordinary crisis meeting, then the government has been planning the crisis for six months, as that’s how long the meeting has been in ministerial diaries.

Kevin Rudd says John Howard is a clever politician. It’s become accepted wisdom. Still, not even Howard is clever enough to always schedule problems a few months out from election day so there’s time to turn them around.

But whatever he does, he can’t panic.

Tony Abbott had the lines down pat when he told the ABC this morning that “it would be fair to say that governments normally do well in the polls if all of the economic indicators are good and if it is a strong united team.”

Like the PM normally does, his comments had that right degree of humility. “This has been a good Government by all standard measures, not perfect because no-one’s perfect, but it’s been a good Government”.

And he had a vaguely folksy response to it all: “Sometimes we scratch our heads when we see these polls, all you can really do is get on with being a good government.”

That’s exactly how the PM should react. Calmly. Panics create distractions of their own and the government does not need any more distractions right now.

Everything’s very zen. On the surface, anyway. Beneath, there’s frantic paddling going on.

It might work — but any movie buff can tell you about the box office response to Howard the Duck.*

*A mighty flop.  

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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