A Margaret Thatcher moment. It somehow seems appropriate that Julia Gillard shared some front pages this morning with a picture of Meryl Streep being rewarded for her portrayal of Maggie Thatcher. That female British prime minister would never have won a public popularity contest either yet she endured at the top for a long time because of a grudging admiration of her toughness.

Prime Minister Gillard should try for the same vote winning formula and start by showing no mercy on some of those ministers who publicly backed Kevin Rudd in the leadership contest. Send a few of them to the backbench to sit next to Kevin and hope for the best. Some fresh faces on the frontbench will do no harm.

The communications assumption. Much talk by the PM after her victory of working harder to sell the message but there is one problem. Maybe it is not the messenger but the message.

The big test to come is the introduction of the carbon tax, which will make things more expensive for everyone. There will be compensating concessions but I doubt that lowering personal tax by a few dollars a week will have quite the same beneficial impact as the negative impact of substantial increases in electricity bills. And as for extra superannuation benefits and reduced company tax, there are no votes to be won.

The harsh truth is that Gillard was right when she argued back before the Rudd sacking that the only safe way for a political party to introduce a policy to restrict carbon dioxide production is when the opposition party agrees with it too.

Not the only one. Australia’s Labor is not the only political party that will be struggling to find a fresh face to become its leader as the year goes on. The US Republicans appear to have the same problem. At the end of the first two months of the selection process for a presidential candidate there is not yet a clear cut leader.

Reservations exist within the Republican ranks about all four of those currently in the race. As measured by the Real Clear Politics poll of polls, President Barack Obama has clear leads in hypothetical contests with Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Candidate Rick Santorum is given a narrow lead but his social conservatism has not yet been exposed to the kind of criticism that Democrats would surely mount. Already there is talk of none of the four obtaining a majority of votes before the nominating convention, which would leave the way open for the selection of someone else.

Perhaps the next round of primaries and caucuses will provide a clearer guide. Later today there will be polls in Arizona and Michigan with the Crikey Republican Election Indicators predicting the following:

  • Arizona — Mitt Romney 98%, Rick Santorum 1.5%, Newt Gingrich 0.2%, Ron Paul 0.2%, Any other 0.1%
  • Michigan — Mitt Romney 68.2%, Rick Santorum 32.5%, Newt Gingrich 0.1%, Ron Paul 0.1%, Any other 0.1%
  • Washington — Mitt Romney 41.2%, Rick Santorum 50.4%, Newt Gingrich 0.5%, Ron Paul 7.8%, Any other 0.1%

Completely out of touch? If we are to believe that Rupert Murdoch and his family members working in the business were unaware of the improper practices at his British newspapers, then surely we must conclude that News Corporation has the most out of touch management in newspaper history. Ignorance might be a defence to criminal charges but it is surely a reason why the ignorant ones should be ruled not fit and proper people to be in charge of shareholders money as directors.

The same ethical standards. It’s not hacking into phones and computers or bribing police and government officials but perhaps it is another example of the ethical standards of News Corporation. Washington’s Blog reports how Fox News edited a pro-war statement by former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton by substituting applause for what was actually booing.

The two-minute video shows a public meeting where Bolton responds to a US war veteran’s question. The video shows that Fox then edits out the audience response to replace it with applause from a different person’s question. The proof is that the applause segment shows a different person walking away from the microphone than the person who asked the question. The veteran testified that the audience booed Bolton’s answer.

The least popular winner ever. And coming in at No.13 on the weekly box office takings chart is The Artist with total box office takings in its 13 weeks since being released in the US of almost $29 million — less than the top four films took in just last week. My fearless prediction is that Hollywood has out-w-nked itself and that the declining audience for its Oscars night of nights will be hastened by the best film selection. For film buffs there’s an interesting look at how promotion triumphed over common sense on the BBC website.

Peter Fray

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