There was a dash of seriousness about the election campaign yesterday as respectable men in suits replaced babies and senior citizens as the backdrop for political gallivanting.

For Prime Minister John Howard it was a speech delivered to the familiar faces of the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne to demonstrate that economic management is a serious business for responsible people. Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd was less public with his important event of the day being a chat with the assembled editors of the Murdoch press at a private gathering in Canberra.

If those editors think this political campaign is the big story gripping the nation then their papers failed to show it this morning. Crimes of one kind or another dominate the front pages as good news sense prevailed. There surely is nothing more boring than two political leaders pretending to be responsible about controlling inflation while in truth they are plotting spending sprees that guarantee the opposite. Why waste newsprint on meaningless words when there is corrupt copper to pillory or social workers to be found guilty of child neglect?

The only light relief the television could find in the events of the day was the sight of a Prime Minister squirming to avoid having said being sorry seen as an admission of responsibility. Kevin Rudd, naturally enough, was trying to portray Mr Howard’s linguistic gymnastics as the act of a heartless maladministrator.

That is what happens in election campaigns when there are only two parties – product differentiation is difficult as both position themselves alongside each other in the middle of the political spectrum. The very smallest slip-ups are magnified as each side tries to convince voters that, to use the example of Harold Hotelling’s law, that their identical ice cream is actually not the same as the one being sold next door.

Yesterday Labor did marginally better at this salesman’s game as measured by Crikey’s The Daily Verdict.

Coalition ALP
Television 0.50 1.27
Newspapers 0.02 0.03
Radio 0.20 0.48
Internet 0.00 0.06
TOTAL 0.72 1.83

You will find details of the way the Daily Verdict is compiled, with the help of raw material provided by our friends at Media Monitors, on the Crikey website.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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