Federal Politics


Talk of death dies hard with ditch the witch

Imagine this scenario.

You are the leader of an opposition party in a thriving medium-sized democracy.

The party's doing swell in the polls. So swell, it's tipped to romp it in at the next election to the sound of a few brass bands playing.

You've got a formidable work ethic, a Rhodes scholarship and three photogenic daughters.

You're also great at sport and not afraid to demonstrate this prowess to your country's sports loving populace.

There's just one issue.


Despite your party's enviable position, according to the polls, you yourself remain relatively unpopular. The latest poll finds that just 31 per cent of voters are satisfied with your performance. Even the current prime minister pips you 40 per cent to 37 per cent in the preferred prime minister stakes.

One of the explanations for these sorry personal ratings is that people are turned off by your negativity. And that at times you can appear a bit aggro.

There was a backlash last year when you appeared in front of signs at a rally that said things like: ''ditch the witch''. And just last week there was concern in your own party that you had gone too hard against a government-turned-independent MP (who is say, accused of misusing union funds) amid general concerns the MP in question might harm himself. There's also a suggestion that women voters in particular don't warm to this full-on style of politicking.

One morning, you have a routine party room meeting in which you address your colleagues and discuss the current state of political play. As a result of this, a senior MP briefs the media about what took place in the meeting. It's a chance to put a productive spin on what you're doing and a dodgy one on what the government is up to.

Now, here's a question: given the information above and your degree of control over what is reported in the briefing, do you, or do you not select the following line to communicate to the nation?

''Gillard won't lie down and die and where there's life, there's fight.''

If you're contemplating the pro case, it is a punchy line. Something guaranteed to grab headlines by the scruff of the neck and wiggle them around. It will also give your own troops a bit of a gee up. No one ever won an election by getting complacent.

But then there's also an argument that discussing the prime minister as someone (something?) that ''won't lie down and die'' is sort of appalling. And that there has to be a kinder, gentler way of describing the political battle ahead.

So it's lucky you've got a choice, right?