Oh to have been a fly on the wall yesterday as the Prime Minister and his boyish team of advisers scenario-played their mea culpa strategy, which culminated in the PM appearing live on The 7.30 Report last night to deliver these words:
“Well, let’s not try and sugar-coat this, Kerry, and I don’t begin to for one minute. This program has created real problems on the ground; it has resulted in a lot of difficulty for a lot of people. As Prime Minister of the country I accept responsibility for that. My job now is to fix it up.”
“Problems”. “Difficulty”. “I accept responsibility”. Since when do political leaders caught in the glare of the headlights of controversy ever admit they are wrong? John (“I can’t comprehend how genuine refugees would throw their children overboard”) Howard never did. Paul (“this is the recession Australia had to have”) Keating never did.
But let’s not try and sugar-coat this unprecedented approach to political crisis management. If the PM and his boys try to deploy yesterday’s tactic whenever the government makes a big mistake, the result will be a lot of difficulty for a lot of people.
Telling the unvarnished truth in politics is an appealing idea in theory, but the reality is that it can only work in the most extreme, most unusual circumstances. Savour the moment.