Saturday, May 7, 2016

Shorten is wrong. His and Turnbull's personality will be a huge factor

You've probably heard that great line "politics is show business for ugly people". It's funny and has a lot of truth to it. (The aphorism's inverse, that showbiz is politics for pretty people, does too. Look at how movie stars compete for agents -- who themselves battle each other viciously -- and advance their careers with feel-good causes, for example.)

Needless to say, show business proper is all about celebrity. And if you wanna make it as a sleb, you gotta have personality, baby!

Similarly, a politician's personality is a hugely influential factor in the eyes of the electorate. Of course he doesn't need to be able to sing, dance, or tell jokes. And voters don't absolutely have to like him -- although of course it helps if they do. But they do need to feel that they know what makes him tick; where he's coming from; what he truly believes in.

That's why I think Bill Shorten got it wrong with this observation about the upcoming election:

Speaking in Sydney today, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Australians should realise Mr Turnbull favoured wealthy people.

"When you hear some people say more money doesn't fix things, the only people who have that view are people who already have enough money," Mr Shorten said.

"The more [people] look at the policies, not the personalities, and they see our positive plans, I'm optimistic that despite our underdog status people will realise that a Labor government will put people first," he told Channel Nine.

Shorten is trying the ol' class warfare line here. That will have some influence, of course. But I think that a bigger reason he's now got a very good chance of winning the election is because voters are finally getting a handle on Turnbull's character (or lack thereof) and they don't like it at all.

They started off blinded by his dazzling smile and impressed by his authoritative manner. But his tendency to waffle and his inability to actually get anything done have prompted a massive reappraisal of him.

Also, I think a lot of people are starting to suspect that Turnbull is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, and all his tragic meeja boosters have been telling us. Take this train wreck interview with David Speers, in which he couldn't bring himself to state a simple dollar amount.

This could have been another example of his tragic tendency to waffle. But it seems likelier that he just didn't know what it was. Both these interpretations reflect very poorly on him as a pollie, and as a person. Hell, if he isn't across this kind of info, why on Earth is he in the top job?

Voters have had a longer look at Shorten and they've got a clearer idea of what he's like deep down. Aside from those tragically deluded rusted-on Labor voters who think he's a real "salt of the earth" "man of the people", I think most Aussies see him for what he is: a ruthlessly ambitious opportunist with a very murky past as a unionist, and one who is beholden to that movement as well as to other special interest groups in his party. They don't really trust him. But they kinda know where he's coming from.

Of course there are other factors that they're considering, with policies significant among them. And I know we don't vote for the PM directly on election day. But we are all mindful of who is leading each party and how we perceive his personality is a massive part of what goes into making our final choice.

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