Just a quick hit: this article in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph from last Valentine’s Day details the less-than-lovey response Rudd received from students invited to the annual Parliamentary Q&A.
It’s not that they were set against him — young Australians overwhelmingly supported Kevin ’07, and continue to support Labor. It’s that he treated them with disdain. He didn’t prepare for what should have been a PR gift; made things up to suit the narrative he wanted to project; and then pulled rank and got angry when his prevarications were exposed.
Clearly rattled, Mr Rudd answered the perfectly legitimate questions like an annoyed schoolteacher, pointing his finger and disputing her claims. “Well, you’re shaking your head. Can I just say that is a fact, and if you ring up principals around the country it’s happening,” he said on air. The Australian National University student [Angela Samuels, 18] has since been backed by principals around the nation, saying they had not been given the laptops that were promised. “I was just shaking my head because I wasn’t happy with what was happening,” she said. “I’m in contact with schools. I know what he’s saying isn’t the truth. It’s annoying that he stands in front of cameras and says things that aren’t true.”
“He came in with the message that the Government was taking action,” Kate Campbell, 21, said. “He’s a very good political operator, he knows how to manage the media and manipulate people and their perceptions.” Andrew McDonnell, 22, said young people were now questioning their loyalties to the Government as a result of their experiences. “I respect him for his intelligence but if he tried to be more genuine and honest he’d be more popular,” he said.
Lesson: even when your gameplan is to emphasise style over substance (which is fair enough), it is imperative that you’re able to fall back on substance when style fails — as, under sustained and competent critique, it inevitably will.