The Courier Mail, Brisbane’s only newspaper and for so many years the defender of the conservative political cause in Queensland must be feeling a change in mood. This morning, the Courier Mail ran with one of the many recent media offerings designed by PR hacks and image-makers. The objective is to soften King Campbell’s image as an axe-wielding job-murderer.
Twelve months ago, even six months ago, the Comments page on a story about King Campbell's insomnia would have been full of confident, boastful, and poorly punctuated statements, crowing about how King Campbell would clean up the mess created Anna Bligh (complete with accusatory spelling like “Blie” and “Blier” that even predated Alan Jones “Juliar” attack).
King Campbell was the Can-Do Man. The LNP was going to win the election because the time had come for change. It was King Campbell’s CanDo-ness that secured the LNP a record-breaking majority.
Now, just seven months into a three year term, even the Courier Mail readers have turned on King Campbell, with a barrage of eye-scorching negativity and poor spelling. The reason, of course, is the horror-movie brutality of his cuts to the Public Service, and his uncaring, tactless attitude. Of the first 65 comments, only 12% were supportive of King Campbell. The other 88% included former public servants who had been sacked, and current public servants who have been living under the Sword of Damocles for the past six months. Their pain shows.
With the exception of a handful of LNP supporters, the mood of the Comments pages ranged from disillusioned to furious to defeated. Obviously comments on a news website have little credibility as a measure of the public mood. In this case though, regular readers will have seen a complete change in alignment, from anti-ALP to anti-LNP, although there's no trace of pro-ALP sentiment either. I can’t believe the readership has changed that much, so it’s the allegiance of the readers that has moved.
In a delicious twist, it was just this weekend when the Courier Mail’s own state political correspondent Steve Wardill suggested that King Campbell needed to back away from the carnage and show his humanity. It’s a good point, Steve, and most first-year communications undergraduates would offer the same advice.
But, as the cuts crusade draws to a close, Newman needs to show another side beyond his other persona, spruiking three-worded election rhetoric such as "back on track" and "four-pillar economy".
Showing compassion for the wider community is a big part of being a premier. It's what sets the job apart from the rates-and-rubbish politics of local government and the big-picture federal arena.
Mr Wardill is wrong. Playing the compassionate leader and crying woe-is-me in this atmosphere is so incongruous in light of his actions as Premier that it’s not credible. The public has become more cynical, but also more knowledgeable about the world of politics. Spin is spin.
We have political wonks – a relatively new word to describe the growing number of people who immerse themselves in the world of politics and politicians as others might follow Morris dancing or cockroach racing. It’s intense and potentially antisocial in many circles, and just a little...weird? (Did you know that “wonk” is the word “know”, but backwards?)
We also have social media, where groups informally coalesce like bubbles in a lava lamp, tweeted opinions spread exponentially, emotions are a dime a dozen, and political wonks congregate and hatch plans for "Wonk Drinks" (yes, it's a thing), boycotts, petitions, protests, campaigns to Destroy the Joint, and events like SlutWalk.
My advice to King Campbell would be to forget about the photo ops with babies and cute furry animals, and stop talking to the media about anything that isn’t policy-related. His personal popularity right now is such that few would if he never sleeps again. He should continue to be this cold, emotionally detached sub-human wrecking ball with a mandate…but do it quietly, and do it until the job is done. Then, rebuild, and let his actions speak as eloquently as they have since Election Day in March.
The problem now for King Campbell is that he doesn't have that kind of time. The hatred is strong. King Campbell has much more to do, and if he continues to act with such little regard for people, he will lose.
Is it possible that just seven months since his election, he's set himself and the LNP on a road back into Opposition? Is this a one-term government?
Honestly, I doubt it, if for no other reason than because the election left the ALP shattered and as such, there is no opposition. Literally. The sporting commentator's favourite cliche, the "rebuilding phase", was custom-made for the ALP in Newmania in 2012.
King Campbell would have learned in the army that it’s wise to make yourself a smaller target, as small as possible, invisible...especially when people are shooting at you. Right now, he’s making himself a bigger mark, and millions of Newmanians are shooting in his direction.