Imagine it. Australian politicians and union bosses on a study tour wander into a spin doctor’s shop, the VF Store, in Washington DC. They are thinking of buying an election campaign “off the shelf.” One of them – “Mr Sheen” to his colleagues – told them about it. While at the UN, he had a night out so wild he couldn’t remember a thing. But he found this spin doctor’s card in his pocket.

And imagine that king of spin, Vic Fingerhut, saying to the visiting band: “Yes, I know this model is expensive. But if you buy the VF Deluxe Model Campaign Winner we’ll throw in our genuine VF Silver Bullet. We give a gold plate guarantee you’ll win with this – or you’ll get your money back.” What have they got to lose? Last time they’d put everything on Mark Latham…

The VF Silver Bullet is simplicity itself. You just insert the words “working families” into everything you say, almost every sentence. Vic says when the Democrats used the “working” adjective in the States, it produced a swing of up to 30% – that’s right 30% – to the Democrats.

Just take the question “Who is better managing the economy?” You just add “for working families,” and voila. The worm shoots up. Kevin Rudd has taken to the VF Silver Bullet like, shall we say, a goose to a NY strip joint. Malcolm Farr counted 20 “working families” in just one brief press conference in Lismore. That’s right, 20!

The other VF drill is to be Absolutely Shameless. Don’t oppose your opponent where he is ahead. Just steal his policies, make one or two cosmetic differences. Then there’s no difference at all between you and most of the journalists give up. It’s brilliant, being Absolutely Shameless.

And if you do slip up on one of your own issues, say, education, health, or climate change, do the same. Again, just be Absolutely Shameless. Steal his policies again. (Think Kyoto 2, the Medicare rebate, independent schools, etc.) The slip is soon forgotten.

And here’s another tip. If you are facing some difficult journalists, remember, be Absolutely Shameless yet again. Just steal their jobs. Question yourself, and answer using the silver bullet and other codes in the VF model along these lines:

“What can be done for working families about vertical fiscal imbalance? Well speaking as an economic conservative, I am going to end Mr Howard’s negative blame game for working families. That’s what working families want –they want us to end the blame game. Working families want to see a government with a plan. I have a plan, a plan fit for working families.”

Wave your hands too, that distracts people watching on TV. They just hear “working families” and conclude that you, untested you, are “in touch”.

The important thing is not to tell anyone you’re using a foreign product, including the Absolutely Shameless drill, but especially the VF Silver Bullet. Be careful to use that only with journalists. Never slip up saying “Where’s the working families lavatory?” or “ Where’s the working families strip club?” You’ll give the game away.

In fact the only time it’s alright is when you’re talking to your wife; for example, “By the way, have you fixed up the AWA’s for all those working families you’ve just placed in the business?” That’s alright, but tell her for heaven’s sake not to underpay them again – at least not before the election. And tell her, no more deals like the one in the UK which so upset the bleeding hearts.

Incidentally, Vic Fingerhut used to boast he was responsible for “a dramatic shift in [Australian] public opinion and attitudes.” Last winter, Graham Young reported Labor was proud to reveal how VF was advancing Labor’s chances of winning. Not any more, it seems. If you go into the VF site now you’d think Labor had never been a client. Curiously, Labor’s missing from the client list. Surely Labor’s not trying to hide the fact they bought their whole campaign from a foreign, an American spin doctor? That people might think the whole campaign is the greatest confidence trick ever foisted on the Australian people?

So behind this spin, just what’s the real agenda? To change everything once we’re in, as Peter Garrett assures people? Will the unions soon be running the country, as Greg Combet says, like they used to?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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