By ALISSA WARREN
The Daughters of the Election. They’re beautiful, smart, sexy and sassy. And they’re the biggest drawcard of all.
Jane Austen would have had a field day popping these girls into bonnets and hoops, with a dash of Darcy.
Last night, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott went on Big Brother in a bid to lure a few extra votes. A strange tactic but that’s not why I got the heebie jeebies.
During the appearance, with his daughters pillared (anyone over this word?) on either side, Abbott said that “if you want to know who to vote for, I’m the guy with the not bad looking daughters…”
Which begs the question, when does the political father/daughter relationship go from cool to uncool?
When a politician is seen with a baby, there is no doubt that it can prove very effective. They can’t go wrong. Dribble, vomit, crying. “Oh,” the politician chuckles, “your baby must like me.”
The Dad Jokes flow thick and fast. It’s all good fodder for these seasoned performers.
Jess Rudd’s baby daughter ticks all the boxes. Itty-bitty. Little dresses. Pink cardigans. Fluffy hair. Tiny shoes. Super cute. Related.
And this is where Tony Abbott sits firmly in the Grey Zone. His girls are adults, not children anymore. And it’s an entirely different ballgame.
Abbott has always struggled with the female voter. And holding hands with his two gorgeous daughters has seemingly lifted some confidence in the community about his attitudes to women.
But has he stepped over the line with this comment to the Big Brother contestants? It’s one thing to talk about someone in your team having ‘sex appeal’ but is it inappropriate/strange for Abbott to have said this about his kids?
Of course, these two young women are gorgeous, clever and well-mannered. What father wouldn’t want to parade them around? They’re one of his biggest achievements and a lot of voters will relate to that. But, seriously, on national TV? Is it daggy-Dad gone douchebag?
The family card is a big winner for both Rudd and Abbott. There’s no doubt this is a tactic.
Their families are getting them front pages, back pages and … even, glossy pages; this month, two of Abbott’s daughters are spread across five pages of a glossy magazine, wearing luxury labels and talking fashion. They’ve been on the Today Show, tonight one of them will be interviewed by Channel 10’s Late News.
The most likeable thing about each of these daughters is that they seem genuine. They obviously want their dad to win. There doesn’t seem to be a lot more to it.
But what does Abbott risk by involving them in the campaign? One former political adviser says, “the more the leader cashes in on them on the way up, the more the media will cash in on them, on the way down”.
That’s a very clinical way of looking at it but it’s also a reality.
Baby-offspring can win votes. Child-offspring can win votes. Adult-children-offspring? I’m still not convinced it’s a great idea.
During the campaign, these young women have well and truly landed themselves smack bang in the middle of the media’s target zone. So far the coverage has been positive. As we’ve already seen – what’s not to like?
But yet again today, the daughters have become the story – not their dad.
Over at The Vine, Luke Ryan penned an open letter to the Abbott girls from the nation, saying:
Dear Bridget, Frances and the other one,
On behalf of Australia, I’m sorry. No-one should have to endure this. All this parading and primping. Oh, sorry, I mean, pimping….
I guess you’re of marrying age. I guess that’s why your father stood in front of what he surely must have known was the entire nation and said, to paraphrase, “Phwoar. Check out these beauties! If I’m Prime Minister you get to look at these lovely ladies for the next three years.
You may feel it fair, or an innocent, if embarrassing aside from a “daggy dad”. But to us he isn’t dad. He’s the next leader of our country, the man who would be king. And he still makes it sound like 50% of us are much better being seen and not heard.
And while The Vine may well have a point, you can’t forget that the Abbott daughters are just normal people. Like you and me. It’s their fathers who are the egomaniacs. Er, sorry, politicians.
And all’s fair in love and politics but when it comes to these young women, I hope they’re not simply being used to bolster dad’s standing. They may be eager and willing now but a life in the limelight isn’t easy. I hope someone is starting to look out for them because it’s going to be a big weekend. Win or lose.
Alissa Warren is a regular senior contributor to Mamamia. She began her career at Radio 2UE and has worked as a reporter for ‘A Current Affair’ and Sydney’s Nine News. Recently, Alissa has written newspaper columns and appears as a regular panelist on various news programs. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Should politicians use their families in the election campaigns? Have you noticed the presence of Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd’s families?