The NT election diary. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is doing his best to help his Territory colleague Paul Henderson by backing away from the suggestion that soon there will be some kind of constitutional amendment that gives extra rights to Aborigines. With the fate of the Territory Labor Government to be determined largely by white voters in and around Darwin and Alice Springs, these Aboriginal matters are not what Chief Minister Henderson would choose to campaign on. With hindsight he probably wishes that the Rudd Cabinet bandwagon had not even come to town this week for its publicised visit to Arnhem Land and a Darwin Cabinet meeting. Mr Henderson had to make do with yesterday’s comment by the PM that “on the question of constitutional recognition, that will be a process of consultation very much over time and we haven’t set our minds yet as to how that will be advanced or progressed.”

The Queensland farce continues. The self destruction of the conservative forces in Queensland continues apace. The latest suggestion is that with the merger between Liberals and Nationals stalled, the Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, Mark McArdle, will end up joining a new party that pretends to be a merger between the two. Underlying the problem is clearly the impossibility of combining liberal thought, free market believers, Neanderthal agrarian socialism and intolerant social conservatives.

The more you see the less you like. A week ago, with the opinion polls showing a slump in the British Labour vote, although still predicting a clear Government by-election win, Prime Minister Gordon Brown ordered all his Cabinet colleagues out door knocking in the Glasgow East constituency. The result of all that intensive campaigning became clear this morning with the win by the Scottish Nationalist Party candidate — the more people thought about Labour the less they liked it. The swing against the Government in the third safest Labour seat in Scotland reached 23%.

The punters (Labor started a clear odds on favourite) and the pundits were equally surprised by the result. It was far worse for Labour than expected. Speculation about the future of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister will now return to dominate British politics. The Prime Minister Scotsman Gordon clearly does not have the skills in conducting by-elections possessed by a Deputy Labour Leader whose name I inadvertently referred to him by yesterday. Part of George Brown’s job in the 1960s, Wikipedia reminds me, was to improve Labour’s by-election campaigning, and he was successful in winning several – most notably, Middlesbrough West.

Contrasting campaigning styles. It has been a long time since democratic politics has seen a political leader practicing the art of oratory. In this television age the conventional wisdom of the image makers is that softly, softly is the way to go. Large public meetings where a candidate is tempted to raise a voice and crowds to cheer are seen as a dangerous practice that does not play well in people’s living rooms.

Barack Obama is setting out to defy the notion that rhetoric is dead. Throughout the lengthy period of Democratic Party primaries he enchanted Americans with his soaring cadences. Yesterday he took his gifted phrase making outdoors in Berlin so that the memories of JFK could be stirred in those old enough to remember. From all accounts it was a spectacular success.

That the candidate of youth is using the techniques of old in a big amphitheatre is made even more interesting by the contrast with the candidate of mature years who is happiest with the modern way of the conversational style of intimate town hall meetings with the audience gathered around. But at least Senator John McCain has a sense of humour. Eating German sausage in the United States and saying he would rather address a crowd in Berlin as a President rather than as a candidate was just about as good a riposte you could make when you lack the Obama speaking skills.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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