All lovers of quality political spin should go out right now and buy, or preferably steal, today’s edition of The Australian. It’s a keeper.

With any luck, the political commentary will feature in Public Relations courses all over the world for years to come.

Dennis “Comical Ali” Shanahan continues his Sisyphean task of reinterpreting Newspoll’s massive Labor lead as an imminent Howard victory. According to Shanahan, the comparative rating of Howard and Rudd as economic managers – about the only thing still in the Coalition’s favour – is the important figure in the polling. Or, at least, it has been since Rudd became preferred Prime Minister. You’d never think there had been an angry debate just three months ago between Shanahan and bloggers over his insistence that preferred PM was the key indicator.

As to the trivial matter of the two-party preferred figure, the “interest rate backlash” bounce for Labor – as explained by Possum Comitatus last week – is there in all its glory. 55-45.

Lucky interest rate rises are such good news for the Government. Imagine how bad the polls would be if they weren’t. Shanahan thinks it’s not as bad as expected. Yes Dennis, it’s only a flesh wound.

Meanwhile, noted pugilist Glenn Milne is still trying to breathe life into the line that economic turmoil is a boon for the Coalition. Contrary to the Prime Minister’s view, Milne says, the sky really IS falling in. And, worse, journalists are ignoring all the evidence.

Good to see conservatives are already blaming the media, even when they run it.

Milne’s column is clunky and chock-a-block with finance jargon – he seems to have done no editing whatsoever to the copy handed to him by the Treasurer’s office. Perhaps Glenn isn’t even in the country. It would come as no surprise to hear he’s paddling about in the South China Sea, trying to whip up a tsunami.

Sid Marris takes a different approach, declaring that the campaign launches will decide the election. This is an interesting, if entirely unsubstantiated, proposition. Campaign launches were important events in the 1970s – when you could compare which celebrities Labor had (most of the stars of Australian stage and screen) and which the Liberals had (Colleen Hewett). They may even have been important in the 1980s, when Bob Hawke would appear in lurid sartorial combinations and promise the world.

But, for all the huffing today that the Liberal launch would “blow Rudd out of the water”, in a 24/7 media cycle, they’re only an opportunity to get one evening’s clear air to itemise a shopping list of promises, with large dollar signs hanging off them.

And we haven’t any of those in the campaign yet, have we?

Marris reckons the Government is still in with a chance because there is a vast reservoir of goodwill toward Howard in the electorate. There’s a silent majority, he claims, that is being missed by pollsters. That would presumably include News Ltd’s own polling organisation.

Sid should tell Dennis that “Australia’s most authoritative poll” is badly wrong. It would cheer him up no end.

Peter Fray

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