Labor’s Leadership Carnival: Greatest Show on Earth for ALP

The ALP leadership ballot process has arguably been good for the Party's morale despite the prospect of a divided party electorate, according to a political historian from the University of Western Sydney.

Dr David Burchell, from the UWS School of Humanities and Communication Arts, is the author of Western Horizon: Sydney's Heartland and The Future of Australian Politics, and The Prince's New Clothes: Why Do Australians Dislike Their Politicians?

He says the party's new system of leadership election was seemingly designed by former leader Kevin Rudd to breeze into immortality, but the process has seemed to have actually improved the party's morale following the crushing election defeat.

"Mr Rudd believed, almost certainly in error, he was so popular among the party's rank and file that they would re-elect him for as long as he wished to be leader," Dr Burchell says.

"But despite the fact this electoral monster was created out of Mr Rudd's personal vanity, the month-long voting process has arguably been cathartic for party members."

Dr Burchell says the campaign for the ALP leadership has inspired an American-style carnival within the ALP.

"Party members have been rung almost constantly over the last week by eager young boosters of the rival candidates – including, on occasion, the candidates themselves," he says.

But Dr Burchell says there's still the threat of a divided party following the announcement of the winner on Sunday.

"The danger is that one leadership candidate will romp home among the rank and file, in this case the Left's Anthony Albanese, while the other, Bill Shorten, will comfortably secure the majority of votes in the parliamentary Party," he says.

"If Mr Shorten wins they will argue he has become leader in defiance of the rank and file – a creature of the imagined 'faceless men'- yet if Mr Albanese wins Labor's opponents will take great pleasure in claiming that he becomes leader against the wishes of his own colleagues."

"Yet despite this potential split, what seemed like a truly lousy idea a few months ago may turn out to be a very good one for the ALP."


11 October 2013

Contact: Mark Smith, Media Officer

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