Election 2013 media panel

Dialing M is madness

Most Labor MPs remember vividly the impact of Kevin Rudd’s leadership shortcomings in 2009-2010. He is in charge again now only because he strapped on a suicide vest: you install me to my rightful place or I’ll destroy the government and many of you with it.

One of the defining features of Rudd’s first attempt at PM was his addiction to short-term media management. He appointed a chief of staff whose sole qualification appeared to be an enthusiasm to play the game with the Murdoch tabloids. Alister Jordan’s preoccupation with the spin cycle, gleefully stoked by his boss, came at the expense of well-considered and effective political strategy.

The first week of the campaign seemed to show that, just as MPs remember Rudd’s failures, so do the media. But to Rudd, of course, there was nothing to forget. For him a virtually flawless performer was brought low by a union plot and a treacherous deputy. The correct tilt of the Earth’s axis was now restored and the media would see that and bear him aloft in triumph through the victory arch.

But what’s this? Are those ungrateful tabloids biting the hand that fed them? Is this another conspiracy, this time among those Murdoch pissants who wouldn’t know greatness if they tripped over it on their way back to the bar?

Week one exposed Rudd’s old fixation with the tabloids again. Two things were made clear by this. The first was that he has not changed. The second was that the media did not think he had. Nobody, it emerged, had forgotten how his obsessions derail him. The fond imaginings of a fresh start harboured by those who switched their support away from Gillard were always delusional.

Rudd said he looked “forward to what others have to say on” his view of a Murdoch conspiracy. So I thought I’d take him up on that. This is an election campaign. Dialing M is a mad distraction. Move on.