Tue, Jul 16, 2013 - Page 8 News List

The unmaking of a female PM

Sushil Seth

She had to do all of this while suffering the slings and arrows only a female prime minister had to suffer.

Some of the invectives, slander and insults hurled at her were never experienced by any male prime minister.

For instance, at a Liberal party (opposition) dinner in a Brisbane restaurant, the menu contained “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail: Small Breasts and Huge Thighs, and A Big Red Box.” It was revolting, but was explained away as a private joke between the owner and his son.

Politically ensnared on all sides, she was constantly experimenting with all sorts of messages as she searched for a breakthrough, which only compounded her image of being shifty and incompetent.

Toward the end, she tried to rally female voters around her.

At a women’s forum, she dwelt on the spectacle, time and again, of a revolving door of Australian politics where men in blue ties continue to replace each other.

However, it backfired, with a 7 percent fall in support among men, and a negligible increase among women.

Increasingly, one opinion poll after the other was suggesting a virtual wipe-out of her Labor party in the elections a few months away.

She was simply failing to connect with the voters as they appeared to have switched off in favor of the opposition led by Abbot. Even as she looked as if she would lead her party into virtual oblivion, her party nemesis, Rudd, appeared to be the only one with the necessary popular appeal to salvage the situation and save the party from a political catastrophe.

In a short, graceful speech following the loss of her leadership, she did not over-emphasize her gender as a factor in her political demise.

She said that being a woman did not explain all her political problems, although her gender did explain something about her situation.

In other words, it certainly contributed to her political demise, although analysts will debate its role in time to come.

In the meantime, Rudd’s return as prime minister has electrified the political scene, with his personal approval rating up by 22 points over Abbot. A recent opinion poll shows the two political parties now at 50 percent each.

If this upward trend continues, it would not be surprising if the Labor Party were to romp into power once again, as it did in 2007 also under Rudd.

What is it that makes Rudd into a game changer?

To put it simply, he has a charisma that exudes optimism in an otherwise relentless atmosphere of political negativity, and people relate to it, because they are sick and tired of being fed negativity.

His problems will start after the elections if he is elected prime minister because, as happened not long after his 2007 win, while he is good at communicating messages, he is not so good at translating them into action.

He is a one-man show, not good at delegating. He is also overbearing, as many of his Cabinet colleagues testified after he was axed in 2010.

Rudd is promising to be a changed man, but that remains to be seen.

Sushil Seth is a commentator in Australia.

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