Premier’s strategic masterstroke leaves him flying solo
Move along, nothing to see here. That is, essentially, how Premier Daniel Andrews has attempted to brush off his party’s latest internal machinations, claiming Victorians have zero interest in Labor Party factions and only care that the government gets on with the job at hand.
Premier Daniel Andrews and newly appointed Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan.Credit:Paul Jeffers
It’s a canny approach, pretending it doesn’t matter. And he’s at least partly right. Factional politics is convoluted and the voting public is increasingly disillusioned by party games played out by caucus heavyweights pulling strings behind the scenes. Better to not discuss how the sausage gets made, and when you’re the person pulling most of the strings, you’re better off being modest about the outcome you’ve engineered.
Indeed, that Andrews not only stage-managed the resignation announcements of four of his most experienced ministers on Friday, but also ensured his preferred successor and Socialist Left faction colleague, Jacinta Allan, was installed as deputy leader – in a rare breach of factional protocol – was a mighty demonstration of how much power he continues to wield.
The notion that the premier might quietly fade away after his COVID marathon and back injury following a fall now seems laughable, at least in the foreseeable future.
Instead, he appears determined to serve another term, his third, should Labor win the November election. And if he does decide to eventually step aside, he has done his best to anoint his successor well in advance. Whether his choice will stick once he stands down, is another matter.
As columnist Shaun Carney writes, “Essentially, this was performative stuff. The party colleagues were given no choice. By putting forward the recommendation, Andrews was issuing a directive.”
Allan is no slouch, having become the state’s youngest minister in 2002, aged just 29, and has been seen as a potential successor for some time.
Where this leaves the government, though, is uncertain. Andrews has been keen to portray the rather sudden simultaneous departure of James Merlino, Martin Foley, Lisa Neville and Martin Pakula as an inevitable changing of the guard and an opportunity to bring in fresher talent.
While they all have plausible reasons for leaving (Merlino said candidly he didn’t “have the fuel in the tank for another term”), it won’t be hard for Opposition Leader Matthew Guy to criticise the government as a revolving door. Though the premier is unlikely to be too worried: the Coalition is still a long way behind in the polls, according to The Age’s latest Resolve Political Monitor survey.
While the nightmares of COVID lockdown are receding into the dim, dark past, few have yet forgotten the central role Andrews played in the government’s response, famously fronting up to his daily press conference for 120 days straight after Victoria was locked down.
While it won him enormous visibility at the time, the risk he faces now, says Paul Strangio, a professor of politics at Monash University, is overkill. He may “have worn out his welcome with the public. They will hanker for life after Andrews.” Call it the Churchill effect: postwar, the British public wanted change, to the extent they were prepared to boot out arguably their greatest leader of the 20th century.
It’s unlikely Andrews will want to remind us too much of the COVID years; although many of the calls he made were necessary, there were mistakes too. But while the days of the daily COVID press conference are over, the government’s prospects are largely reliant on Andrews’ ability to communicate. And in an election year with barely a handful of familiar faces left in the cabinet, what he says and does carries more weight than ever.
Gay Alcorn sends a newsletter to subscribers each week. Sign up to receive her Note from the Editor.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article