O Fontana! Is Rudd losing his election on rudeness?

Two weeks to go to the Australian election and maybe the campaign is now beginning to show some signs of life. But things are not looking very good for Kevin Rudd.

The campaign has been fairly lacklustre so far but some small events may be having an unexpectedly large impact on the electorate. Whereas Abbott’s slip-ups almost seem to be expected and are discounted, Rudd’s small missteps are instead tapping into perceptions of his long history on the political stage. A Rude Rudd meme is growing. Voters don’t usually choose their candidates just for being polite but it is possible that they may refuse to vote for someone considered rude.

Lily Fontana’s short-lived outburst on Facebook about Kevin Rudd’s relative rudeness before last weeks TV debate has brought all his many previous episodes of rudeness back to the forefront. Strangely Abbott’s “shut up” about Rudd is seen as being somewhat justified. His “suppository” instead of “repository” generated a few smutty jokes but does not seem to have caused much negative impact. Perhaps because expectations of Abott are sufficiently low. Perceptions relative to expectations give reality. Another make-up artist, Abigail Johnston, also described a similar episode with Rudd. She too took down (or was forced to take down) her Facebook post.

News.com: Make up artist Abigael Johnston backed up her friend Ms Fontana, saying Mr Rudd had previously been rude to her. “I second this Lily. I have had a very similar experience!” Ms Johnston said. Posting on Facebook Ms Johnston said: “Must run in the family as Mr Howard and Mr Costello were gentlemen with a capital G. Mr Abbott is following in their footsteps. The other, I could not even face book how he treated the crew. Just abhorrent!” When contacted this morning Ms Johnston said the incident she referred to had occurred before Mr Rudd was Prime Minister.

The electorate is beginning to remember that Rudd’s smile is just a little too smarmy and that he may not be such a nice bloke after all. His past reputation for bullying and rudeness is suddenly of great interest.

The Australian: A RETIRED air vice-marshal has accused Kevin Rudd of “bully standover tactics” and a make-up artist has declared he was rude as she prepared him for the people’s forum debate, reviving questions about the Prime Minister’s character that emerged in his first stint in the role. ….. The revelations blunted Labor’s attacks on Tony Abbott’s character, after the Opposition Leader snapped during the forum debate, asking of Rudd “does this guy ever shut up?” ….. echoed claims that Mr Rudd had been rude to air force staff during his first term as prime minister. In the lead up to his failed February 2012 leadership challenge against Julia Gillard, an expletive-laden video was leaked of him losing his cool as he prepared a Chinese-language video.

Herald Sun: In 2009 he famously had to apologise to an RAAF air hostess after it was revealed he reduced her to tears when the meal he requested was unavailable on a flight from Port Moresby to Canberra. .. In the same year it was reported Mr Rudd threw a “wobbly” when Diggers were unable to locate a hairdryer for a photo opportunity in Afghanistan. .. Again in 2009 Mr Rudd reportedly launched an expletive-ridden tirade at Labor’s factional bosses, including three female MPs. ….. In 2010 following the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit Mr Rudd told journalists: “Those Chinese f-ers, they are trying to ratf- us”. … Then in 2012 an expletive-ridden video was released. In the video, uploaded to YouTube under the heading “Kevin Rudd is a happy little vegemite” the PM slams the table and swears repeatedly in outtakes. “You can tell these d-heads in the embassy to just give me simple sentences. I’ve said this before,” Mr Rudd says. “Tell that bloody interpreter. This f-ing language just complicates it so much, you know. How can anyone do this.”

Furthermore his “despatch” of Julia Gillard has confirmed a perception of  his deviousness. What was once seen as “political skill” has flipped over to being seen as “underhanded” and Machiavellian. Of course the Australian Labour Party’s internal workings could be used as a script for The Borgias. (While Jeremy Irons is known to donate generously to Labour in the UK, I have not heard that he has shown much interest in the Australian election).

And now the latest polls show not only the Coalition increasing its lead but also that Rudd may have difficulty in defending his own seat:

The AgeKevin Rudd faces a fight to avoid becoming the third prime minister in the nation’s history to lose his own seat. A second poll in a week has shown Mr Rudd narrowly trailing his Liberal National Party opponent, Bill Glasson, in Griffith, prompting the Prime Minister to declare he was campaigning as hard as he could.

Long-serving prime minister John Howard lost his Sydney seat of Bennelong to Labor’s Maxine McKew as part of the Ruddslide in 2007, the first time an Australian PM had lost his own electorate since Stanley Bruce in 1929.

BloombergAustralia’s opposition Liberal-National coalition widened its lead over the Labor government in an opinion poll, signaling leader Tony Abbott may replace Kevin Rudd as prime minister after the Sept. 7 election. Support for the coalition rose to 53 percent on a two-party preferred basis this week from 52 percent two weeks earlier, while those voters backing the ruling Labor party fell one point to 47 percent, according to a Herald-Nielsen poll published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper today. Support for Rudd as preferred prime minister fell to 48 percent from 50 percent while 45 percent of those surveyed backed Abbott, up from 42 percent.

My forecast from far, far away (13,600km on a great circle route to Perth) would be for an Abbott win with about a 10 seat margin. It seems unlikely now that any “big” issue (economy, carbon tax, immigration …) is going to get further traction or to be decisive. But two weeks is a long time in politics. It is certainly long enough for either to snatch defeat.

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