One thing about running a small target strategy in politics is that any relationship built between the personal brand of the leader and the voter market is also small. Tenuous at best.
Add to that an already high level of dislike and mistrust towards nearly all politicians, and an expectation that a Prime Minister needs to govern based around a simple yet shared vision and we have the perfect political storm that is currently engulfing the Turnbull Government.
This doesn’t feel like the first 100 days of a newly elected government. It feels like the last 100.
Conservative leaders have clearly ignored the most successful conservative leader of recent times, John Key, playbook when it comes to not just holding government but actially doing so each and every election based on a vision so fresh and clean that no amount of mud thrown at it by opponents dirties it.
John Key’s economic rationalism balanced out with his social investment policies have seen him in the same term increase the GST to 15% AND introduce marriage equality laws without so much as a whimper on his governments electoral standings. Just ask David Little. Or the 97% of CEO’s who think he is doing a great job.
And of course there is his nice Dad touch thanks to the social media uploads by his young family, namely son Max Key. It is brilliant comms because it is absolutely natural and nothing more than a son poking fun at his previous generational father. Right about now Malcolm Turnbull is trying to figure out a way of how to copy this entire strategy across the board. Perhaps John Key’s son included as grandson Jack is still a bit young to get grandpa on Snapchat.
For Malcolm Turnbull he seems like a man who is on the very brink of losing it all after having come this far. The brand policy pioneership is being owned by a very resurgent Bill Shorten, a deliberate and intentional strategy that adds to the narrative of this being a government too scared to act in case it loses a vote in either the Parliament or the party room, but also a narrative of that should this government fall there already is a Prime Minister in the wings who has been leading the policy discussion in the key areas that currently face Australia.
If anything it appears that Bill Shorten is the one who currently has the social investment balanced out with the economic leadership, although he still has miles to go on the charisma front.
Malcolm Turnbull may not have promised Hope a la Obama and Blair and even Cameron in his pre-Brexit days, but he did promise progression in social policy areas such as marriage equality, climate change and the environment and the Republic, and badly needed structural and economic reforms on the business front.
This expectation still built up a promise in the minds of those who believed and voted for the Turnbull Government. That promise, in these early days of governing, has hardly been fulfilled. Worse is that it seems unlikely that it will thanks to the work ably done in the House of Reps by a very smart Labor.
It is not too late by any stretch for the Turnbull Government. But they need to rebuild, rengage and reconnect and fast. They need to start being a big, bold target and start working on those relationships.
There needs to be movement on social and economic issues and fast. There will be no party room revolt if the polls are strong because the government is governing and doing the sort of things we want and need to see it do. In fact the party room revolt only comes because there is no governing.
Governing is about being decisive. The doing. The actions. The implementation. About being Frank Underwood. Sort of.
It is not about being lifeless and drifting as appears to be the case now.
But if there is more talk and less action in the remainder of 2016 then those polls will become a pattern and not a trend and that means that Bill Shorten has every right to lay claim to being the leader in waiting and the real progressive Prime Minister that Australia needs.