That candidates are a nuisance at election time was shown again yesterday when one of Labor’s star new recruits few words to ABC radio Bega that ended up leading the nightly national television coverage in a way that Kevin Rudd could have done without.

Colonel Mike Kelly ventured to give his own opinion on John Howard’s policy speech proposal to give all parents a tax deduction for a wide range of school fees and expenses in a way that the sharp eared fellows at Liberal headquarters heard as a signal that this minor Labor Party figure was a supporter of former leader Mark Latham’s hit list of private schools.

Quick as a flash the Prime Minister was briefed and telling journalists to warn voters with kids at private schools to expect punishment should there ever be a Rudd Government.

Almost as quickly the Labor campaign team was getting their candidate for Eden Monaro to recant with a statement saying that he was wrong with his interpretation of what a future Labor Government might do because Kevin 07 had told him so.

Combined, they were a couple of nice moves by pawns in the campaign chess game that resulted in Labor losing some of the gloss that was gained by those excellent pictures of the Return of the Nerd. What would have been a comfortable win on Crikey’s The Daily Verdict was turned by the talk of Kelly’s gaffe into just the narrowest of victories.

Labor still won the battle of the pictures but lost when it came to the words.

Coalition ALP
Television 1.63 1.91
Newspapers 0.23 0.09
Radio 0.48 0.28
Internet 0.06 0.17
TOTAL 2.39 2.45

In a campaign like this, where public interest is low, journalists are prone to exaggerate every little slip-up by even the most minor of players. In that kind of environment the safest thing is to ensure that all candidates are given the Peter Garrett treatment as illustrated so wonderfully in last week’s interview of John Clarke as Garrett on The 7.30 Report.

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.