One observable thing about looking at the economy and financial markets over the past 25 years is that not many people are all that good at reading data and even those who are very good occasionally mis-read the information that is included in what is hard numerical news.
The raft of opinion polls today show that Mr Rudd is preferred leader of the Labor Party. There is no doubt about that. But the headlines surrounding the findings are skewiff and other more important data are not being properly analysed by many people, if any.
Let’s start by looking at the question that matters – the two party preferred results. The average of the polls today show the Coalition at 53 or 54%; Labor at 46 or 47%. There is no doubt that if repeated at an election, the Coalition would win very comfortably.
But the question that I have not seen asked is how much of this result is influenced by the 18 months of Mr Rudd white-anting, sniping and leaking? In other words, if Mr Rudd had done the right thing and left Parliament at the 2010 election and slipped into the backdrop, what would the polls be showing?
I cannot but guess the impact. Is Rudd’s petulance and bastardry worth 2%? 3%? 4%? 5%? to the Coalition vote? I don’t know, but it is a positive number for them.
What we do know is that in the 2010 election campaign, the polls were showing Labor ahead 54% to 46% or so when the election was called. This moved dramatically with a whopping 5% swing to around 49% to 51% in the aftermath of the Laurie Oakes leaks. There’s a 5% jolt from that.
Based on a working assumption of a clean air, Rudd-free agenda, the polls would, I suggest, be close to 50% to 50% right now. My guess is that Rudd is adding 3 or so points to the Coalition vote.
Looking at the poll numbers today must take account of that influence.
Mr Rudd is like the proverbial arsonist who, having lit the fire, wants to don the firefighters outfit and ride to the rescue to put out the fire. It would clearly be a different scene had he not lit the match in the first place.
With 18 months until the next election, there is still a lot of time for the Gillard Government, free of the Rudd ball and chain, to return the focus on the wonderful position of the Australian economy, the budget surplus, low unemployment, education reform, carbon price, MRRT, disability insurance, Australia hosting the G20 meeting in 2014, low inflation, company tax cuts, superannuation increases and the like.
There are two Budgets in that time as well to add to the policy agenda
We know from the Essential Research findings this week people like the bulk of the policies of the Gillard government by margins of up to 20%.
If Prime Minister Gillard can approach these items plus the agenda for the next 18 months without the destabilization of a bitter Mr Rudd, she still might win the next election.