Former prime minister Julia Gillard’s director of communications, John McTernan, today counsels Kevin Rudd on “an effective election strategy” to salvage his campaign. Good policy? Honesty with voters? Less spin? No, McTernan — described as “one of the smartest brains of the New Labour years in Britain”– has a more original tactic: “negative campaigning”.

Writes McTernan in The Age:

“In politics attack is the best form of attack. James Carville, who got Bill Clinton elected, said it best: ‘If your fist is down your opponent’s throat he can’t say bad things about you.’

“All voters always say they hate negative ads. Who wouldn’t? What they are really saying is that they are not shallow or venal enough to be moved by malice, money or misrepresentation. But their votes say something different. The right attacks — the ones that resonate — move votes.”

McTernan is the Scotsman who came to the former PM’s office in 2011, on a 457 visa, whose abrasive strategies worked so well for Gillard that she became one of Australia’s least popular prime ministers and then lost her job.

Now he has the temerity to advise Rudd to follow similar cynical tactics.

When it comes to the head-kicking McTernan, the argument for sending political refugees to another country has never looked more attractive.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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