I recently wrote an Open Letter to Australia’s new Prime Minister Tony Abbott, putting forth a few ideas of what Australia is looking for in his leadership. You can read that letter here. I then thought I would like to write a letter to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, contributing to his post election analysis of what were the weaknesses in his leadership.
I am not expert, just an Australian voter with an opinion. All voters over this last weekend expressed their opinion, I am simply putting my numbers on a green ballot paper into words. (Remember this is only my opinion)
Dear Mr Rudd
Thank you for serving as Prime Minister of Australia for the time you did. No doubt there is much soul searching both personally and within the Labor Party post the election defeat. For what it’s worth, I would like to contribute into the ALP thought bubble.
It would be my guess that Australians don’t like having their Prime Ministers knifed by their own colleagues. Paul Keating didn’t last too long after he knifed Bob Hawke, Julia Gillard never completely gelled with the Australian people after your knifing, and whilst there was some initial exuberance after you got your revenge, that’s where the exuberance ended. I think the ALP need to remember this fact when they look to elect Bill Shorten as leader in the next few days. Bill is the political equivalent of the grim reaper and I would guess just as popular with the electorate.
If you want to see where or why your Leadership struggled to connect with people, you only need to look at your speech conceding defeat at the end of Election Day 2013. Your entire body language looked like you had just won the lottery:- there was no connection with the gravity of the moment, making it difficult for the public to connect with how you must have really been feeling. (Think back to your speech the day Gillard pushed you aside – we all felt your pain that day). Additionally the speech was one large “verbal selfie” and your failure to mention your predecessor at all, showed that your still hold much vitriol toward her. You had the opportunity last night to well and truly bury one of the ugliest public relationship spats in Australian political history by honour Julia Gillard and thanking her for her time as Prime Minister, but by failing to do so, left the entire sordid episode hanging.
I am not a great fan of Julia Gillard or for that matter Wayne Swan, but I must admit great admiration for them for the way they behaved once defeated. They didn’t white ant your leadership, they didn’t leak confidential ALP papers, they didn’t whisper to journalists about your weaknesses: instead they were silent and gave you every opportunity to win the election. They acted with honour. This unfortunately is not the way you behaved when you were ousted. Instead you spent 17 months white anting Gillard’s leadership even all the way through the 2010 Federal Election Campaign. You also made public statements about never challenging for the leadership again – yet you did. Australians observed this and judged you for it.
Another contribution to your defeat I believe is the lack of fresh ideas you bought back to the leadership role. You spent 17 months in the wilderness and once back, I assumed you had spent that time dreaming of a better nation and that you had been hankering for an opportunity to take Australia on a journey:- A vision for a better future. But I waited for you to start talking vision. I waited to hear of your dreams for our nation, but instead heard constant negativity about Tony Abbott. It seemed to me that you assumed we would vote for you simply because you were back. This does appear to smack of a level of arrogance that does put distance between you and the electorate.
The final thought I would like to contribute into the post election thought bubble is that you suffered irreparable political fuselage damage by changing your deeply held beliefs. Now people do change their beliefs, but I am not sure you took the time to take the electorate on that journey with you, instead you assumed you would be hailed a hero.
Overall, my summation is that you failed to connect with the Australian people.
I thank you again for serving as Prime Minister, I would assume it’s a role that takes an enormous toll on you personally and on your family and for the sacrifice you have made, I honour you and thank you.