Magazine article New Zealand Management

The End of John Howard?

Magazine article New Zealand Management

The End of John Howard?

Article excerpt

One of Australia's latte set's favourite parlour games this year has been to speculate on John Howard losing his seat in the upcoming election: his electorate seat, that is, not just his Prime Minister's seat in Parliament.

Psephologists say the demographics of his Bennelong seat on Sydney's North Shore have been changing in Labor's favour, thanks to immigration and boundary changes, making it marginal.

And Labor's candidate is high-profile television journalist, Maxine McKew. Polls have her in the lead.

Can a sitting Prime Minister really lose his seat? Sir Wallace Rowling nearly did during Labour's rout here in 1975 and Stanley Bruce did in Australia in 1929. The logic is that if voters conclude Labor is set to become the government the pull of prime ministerial office on voters fades.

And there is much reason to think Kevin Rudd's Labor is going to become the government.

Why is this?

In the early part of 2004, the last election year, Labor held a large lead but lost it as its erratic leader, Mark Latham, was exposed and exposed himself, allowing Howard and his Liberal-National coalition a cruise back into office.

That early 2004 lead indicates voters were window shopping the possibility of change but decided the goods weren't up to scratch. Since Rudd became leader late last year voters have been window shopping again--but as time has passed have become increasingly interested in buying.

Add to that rising interest rates, deregulation of a cosseted labour market, growing discomfort with Howard's super-pro-American hard line on Iraq, his cynical vote-buying and the fact that he has been Prime Minister 11 years.

It doesn't quite add up to "time for a change", in part because Rudd has to win a net 16 seats in the 150-member House of Representatives, which is a big ask. But change is in the air.

Rudd is the next generation from Howard. He is highly intelligent and intellectually strong. He has convincing foreign policy credentials, has spent time in China and speaks Mandarin, which equips him well to handle Australia's most important bilateral relationship over the next 10 years.

He is no latte-drinking wet. A practising Catholic, he has moderately conservative views on social issues. That puts him more in tune with the suburban Labor vote than any leader since Bob Hawke.

In addition, his fiscally conservative economics makes him safer for potential converts from the Liberals than any leader since Hawke. …

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