When you think something is common knowledge, when you think absolutely everyone knows something, it’s a bit of a shock to the system to find out you’re wrong.
“What do you mean you didn’t know He-Man’s pet tiger was called Battlecat? What’s wrong with you?!”
“You don’t know every word to the Full House theme song? For shame.”
In much the same way, the ALP was not prepared for the public backlash when they rolled Kevin Rudd in 2010.
They thought it was common knowledge that Kevin Rudd was not performing. The polls had been sliding. He’d been lampooned as the Rudd-bot, reciting phrases like “programmatic specificity.” The party was paralysed, policies were failing or going nowhere and it seemed that everyone knew it.
At least everyone in Canberra knew it. And that’s the problem. Canberra is a very different place to ‘The-rest-of-Australia’.
Kevin Rudd has always been very good at appealing to the people. And when he stood in front of all those TV cameras on June 24, 2010 with tears rolling down his face, the country got behind him. He was “our” Kev and that woman stole his job.
The ALP made a mistake. They never really articulated to “The-rest-of-Australia” why they needed to make the change. Phrases like “Moving on” and “a good government had lost its way” did not resonate with the public. Not nearly as much as a grown man crying over his broken dreams.
Julia Gillard kept quiet, not wanting to rub salt into the wounds, ripped open by what looked like a callous, heartless, unprovoked attack.
As they prepare for Monday’s Spill, they need the public to know why they did it. They’re desperate for the public to understand. But it could be too late.
Journalist and ex-speechwriter for Kevin Rudd, James Button has written about his experience from that time:
“Rudd’s prime ministership failed, and the failure was above all his own. The story of his government, and of its end, has still not been fully told. The consequence has been deep damage to Australians’ faith in politics and in government.
The truth is, Rudd was impossible to work with. He regularly treated his staff, public servants and backbenchers with rudeness and contempt. He could be vindictive, intervening to deny people appointments or preselections, sometimes based on grudges going back years.
He made crushing demands on his staff, and when they laboured through the night to meet those demands, they received no thanks, and often the work was not used. People who dared to stand up to him were put in “the freezer” and not consulted or spoken to for months.
His staff’s prodigious loyalty was mostly not repaid. He put people down behind their backs. He seemed to feel that everyone was always letting him down. In meetings, as I saw, he could emanate a kind of icy rage that was as mysterious as it was disturbing.
…. Vital decisions were held up while he struggled to make up his mind, frequently demanding more pieces of information that merely delayed the final result. The fate of the government seemed to hinge on the psychology of one man.”
Button writes about the bottleneck of policies in early 2010, caused by Rudd’s refusal to listen to advice and his pre-occupation with media events and picture opportunities.
“It was in these circumstances, with the polls tumbling and mining companies’ anger rising, that Gillard took the decision to mount a leadership challenge.
The deed was murky and brutal, and we still don’t know quite how it happened, but we can be clear about why. If it was only the act of faceless men, as Rudd has said, why was the caucus majority against him so overwhelming that he did not even dare to stand?
….In 2009 it was Canberra’s best-kept secret that his dysfunctional personality was damaging the government. “I wake up every morning waiting for the headlines,” a senior official once told me but, with one or two exceptions, the headlines never appeared.”
But, in February 2012, it might be too late for the ‘insiders’ to start screaming, “We know him better than you do! We can’t go back to those days”
Julia Gillard was never able to fully articulate why he had to go. She wanted to spare him from the humiliation, and spare the ALP from the scandal. But the public never understood.
The public still sees the warm, smiling Kev from Queensland and thinks he was treated appallingly.
Lauren Dubois is a freelance political reporter and Canberra correspondent for Mamamia. For all thing politics, you can follow her on Twitter here
Kevin Rudd wins office during the November 2007 Federal election.