Another day, another poll, another massive lead to the ALP. You can almost hear the sighs of frustration from the media – and not just at The Australian.
Election campaigns need narratives. They need some drama, a story to engage the punters. As it is, the election barely manages to make the evening commercial news before the first ad break. If Ben Cousins starts dating Britney Spears, that’ll be the end of it.
And, given the stubborn pro-Labor polling of the last nine months, the only story we were ever going to get, regardless of a media outlet’s ideological or commercial preference, was of the “Howard launches comeback” variety. Preferably, one strong enough to take the election “right down to the wire”, giving us a “cliffhanger” that “could go either way.”
Well, the Prime Minister keeps putting that comeback on the launchpad, and it keeps blowing up. The Australian tried to get out and push on Tuesday with its Newspoll, but it only took Tony Abbott about five minutes to find the self-destruct button. Today’s Nielsen poll gets us back to where we were a fortnight ago. Or a month ago, or at the start of 2007.
The return of Mohammed Haneef to the headlines won’t help. Like Mersey Hospital, the Haneef case was supposed to be a political rabbit plucked from the hat by the magician Howard. But it turned out to be like the killer bunny from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, savaging everyone who came near it, and most particularly the dopey fundamentalist Kevin Andrews and head Keystone Cop Mick Keelty.
Today’s revelations are especially comforting as they show the Federal Police were eager to keep incarcerated a man their fool of a Commissioner claims to believe shouldn’t have been charged. Good thing these sort of people have such draconian powers.
Because “Rudd still heading for victory” sells no newspapers and attracts no viewers, we’re stuck with three more weeks of journalists trying to find ways for Howard pull off what would now be an unprecedented victory. If all the undecideds go to the Liberals. If Rudd stumbles. If marginal seat battles don’t follow the national trend. If the anti-union campaign starts to bite.
If, if, if.
At this stage of the 1996 campaign, many commentators were still declaring “the smart money is on Paul Keating.”
We were all wise after the event. Like we will be on 25 November.