Listless ALP in danger of becoming a zombie party

Listless ALP in danger of becoming a zombie party, by Troy Bramston.

Albanese, most think, has no cut-through. The voters are not listening to him. Labor MPs are frustrated that they rarely land a glove on the Coalition. The polls are diabolical. The mood within the party is grim.

Labor is in danger of becoming a zombie party — aimless with little sign of life. The B-grade frontbench from the Rudd-Gillard years is just going through the motions. Many blame the pandemic when there is a “rally around the flag” effect for most governments. Yet Labor has done little since the last election to revitalise its policies. Its political strategy is defective. And the party organisation remains largely moribund. …

In unguarded moments, many on Labor’s frontbench concede the prospect of winning the next election is very unlikely. Some have almost given up entirely. Sure, they’ll front the media to respond to the issues of the day and prepare election policies but, again, this is just going through the motions.

Labor has never won an election without a popular leader who can excite the party with the promise of their charisma coupled with bold policy ideas. The central problem for Labor — in addition to its declining electoral base — is Albanese. “He wanted the leadership so badly but he doesn’t know what to do with it,” is a common refrain from shadow ministers.

The party’s true believers — those who turn up to mind-numbingly boring local branch meetings and hand out how-to-vote cards — have become impatient. Labor MPs report frustration, even anger, with Albanese’s largely listless performance. They see the Morrison government with huge failings that Albanese is unable to prosecute. When he does go on the attack, it usually misfires. When facing tough questions, he gets cranky with interviewers. …

The latest example of Labor’s awful messaging is its phrase, “the Morrison recession”. This is cringeworthy in the extreme. It shows Labor to be wholly reactive. It is absurd overreach. How could anybody blame the Morrison government for a recession induced by a global pandemic. It is intellectually dishonest and politically stupid. …

Its primary vote, nationally, is flatlining in the dismal mid-to-low 30s. Scott Morrison has a commanding lead as preferred prime minister. Labor has not won back voters lost to the Greens on the left or the Coalition and One Nation on the right.

The ALP is still quite sure of how to react to the great realignment. Forward to identity politics and spurning the deplorables, or back to championing the working class?

The overarching problem within Labor remains how to reconcile its working-class moderate base with its postmodern middle- and upper-class progressive instincts. Labor is in danger — led by an inner-city left faction leader who has spent his life in politics — surrendering to the green-left wing of the party.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and UK Labour leader Keir Starmer have surged in the polls. Why? Because they have effectively critiqued Trump and Johnson, offered measured and realistic alternative responses to the pandemic and the recession, and have credibility with voters. This exposes the claim that it is too tough for Albanese. The truth is that his leadership is circling the drain.

Anthony Albanese is too mediocre. I used to belong to the same ALP branch (Camperdown) as him at university in Sydney, in 1982. I recall him, but he didn’t impress me at the time. I guess he hung around and hung around the ALP, and grafted his way to the top. But now we are witnessing the Peter Principle in action –that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their “level of incompetence”.