With the Coalition gaining a 3% swing in the poll, many of its supporters are enjoying a “told ya so” moment about the electability of Tony Abbott. James Paterson (not the thriller writer) brought them all together in an article for the Oz Spectator, rounding up the usual suspects. Your correspondent was surprised and pleased to be included:

And Crikey’s resident angry former Marxist, Guy Rundle, after comparing Abbott to Taliban leader Mullah Omar… …boasted that ‘vanquishing Abbott shouldn’t be too hard’ because Abbott is ‘a weird little creep’ who would destroy himself without much help.

Please because at least someone is paying attention (former Marxist?), surprised because taken out of full context the quote is exactly the opposite of what I suggested. Here’s the full quote:

The possession of an idea of politics, of what it is as a distinct activity, has thus given Abbott an instant towering quality, compared to the people around him. Turnbull, Hockey, Nelson – these were political Kalkitos figures. Remember Kalkitos? Those transfer figures –   soldiers, astronauts etc – that you attached to a cardboard landscape with a pencil? That’s been the Liberal Party for two years. Abbott is no Kalkitos, and he may well give the party a sense of purpose and forward motion. But he will do so from the deep wellsprings of his own politics, of a sense – literal or otherwise – that the world is simply a shadow of a deeper order…

… With the election of Abbott, Labor has no choice but to make this a fight between modernity and its other… That shouldn’t be too hard, if Labor maintains a positive message about modernity, hope and possibility, and what a weird little creep Abbott ultimately is.

“towering quality … purpose and forward motion … deep wellsprings…”, yeah I really underestimated that guy, didn’t I? My point was that Labor, using intelligence, grace and wit, should have drawn all Abbott’s weirder attitudes out — not as the main game, but as a side issue that put him on the defensive.

My one error was to say that shouldn’t be too hard — but that was not because I underestimated Abbott, but overestimated Labor (merely saying that Labor has a pulse would have been to overestimate them). What could Keating or Hawke, with Watson, Freudenburg, Ellis, etc, etc, have done with Abbott’s remark about his daughters’ virginity? A direct assault wouldn’t work, but four well-placed jokes could have had people snickering every time Abbott posed with near teenage girls.

At that point, Abbott could have announced a cure for cancer, and no one would have noticed. As with “can a souffle rise twice” and “I want to do you slowly”, a single well-chosen line would have resituated Abbott entirely.

Why didn’t Labor do that? Because they would have had polling that nine people and a cane toad in Queensland think Jesus rode a dinosaur to church. But that’s the whole point of humour. It allows you to say something while not doing so. Humour is the way you bring voters over the line — making it impossible for them to vote for your opponent, because they simply can’t take her/him seriously, even if they feel closer to your opponent’s politics.