Just two days ago, Queensland voted to change governments, from the ALP to the LNP, in a victory from which Labor may not emerge. Vanquished Premier Anna Bligh has removed herself from the game, forcing a by-election in South Brisbane. Defeated ALP members are thick on the ground, yet they aren’t volunteering to lead the handful or so Labor members that survived Saturday’s massacre. Both Andrew Fraser – expected to be the next leader – and Grace Grace have confirmed that they won’t contest.
It’s not just Queensland. The entire eastern seaboard has rejected their long-serving ALP Governments and replaced them with Liberal/National Party Coalition Governments, or in the case of Queensland, the LNP.
On the federal level, Julia Gillard just scraped back into power with the assistance of the independents and Greens. She is phenomenally unpopular, and as was the case with Anna Bligh in 2009, snuck back into power in part due to an Opposition that was perceived to be worse than the Labor alternative. The Federal term has just passed the half-way mark. If Labor is to recover, it must start now.
Can the ALP redefine itself, rebuild, and sell its new message before the next Federal Election is due in the second half of 2013?
It doesn’t matter how much time the ALP organisation spends contemplating its belly button, knowing what went wrong with the Queensland elections won’t help it win the Federal Election next year.
The first hurdle in rebuilding Labor is for Labor – by which I mean it’s members – to decide what it wants to be. Are the values that Labor built on a century ago still relevant? Should Labor reconnect with it’s Union roots, or is there a new vision? Given how far the ALP of the 21st Century is from its unionist / socialist roots, should it try to regain it’s base, or try to build a new one?
There’s an impressive gap between the ALP and the Greens, the two parties which are perceived as being left in today’s environment. Check out the Political Compass. In 2010, the ALP was considered to be Centre-Right, and the greens slightly left of centre. There’s an opportunity there, pretty close to the centre of the political map, and I suspect that if we were to examine the values of “old Labor”, it would fill that gap quite well.
The answers only take us half way.