Kevin Rudd – the anti-politician. John Menadue

Jul 8, 2013

We often ponder why Kevin Rudd has remained so popular even through his three years in the wilderness.

A blog ‘The Piping Strike’ explains to me the phenomenon better than others. It says ‘The uncomfortable answer is that Rudd is popular because he encapsulates the electorate’s distrust and even dislike of the political system’.

The kid with the glasses in the library doesn’t seem like the normal politician. He is attractive because of that. This makes it hard for the political class, both politicians and journalists, when Kevin Rudd doesn’t play the game the same way as others. The more machine politicians and the media pile into Rudd, the more his anti-politician stance attracts people in the community.

He was chosen as leader in 2007 not because the political machine liked him but because he seemed popular with the community. He made mistakes as PM but when he was seen as no longer any use to the machine – think Paul Howes and Bill Ludwig- acted to get rid of him. He wasn’t as easily controllable and predictable as they had hoped. Not surprisingly when he was chosen leader again, a few weeks ago one of the first things he did was to attack the control of the factional politicians and their minders in some of the big unions. Much remains to be done but quick action on the NSW ALP branch was entirely predictable. Kevin Rudd is not beholden to any party machine as Julia Gillard was. His strength as an anti-politician is in the community. And the community to date is clearly responding.

Gough Whitlam bucked the party machine and survived because he was strong in the electorate. People outside the inner circle of politics loved what he was doing in confronting the factions and the party machine.

Queenslanders, like Kevin Rudd have a particular reputation and earn respect by bucking the party system. Think Bob Katter and Pauline Hanson. Peter Beattie’s strength in Queensland was in part because he kept running against the ALP machine.

Rudd’s non-party support is revealed not only in being mobbed in shopping centres, but also in the social media. He has 1.2 million twitter followers.  This is almost 10% of voters. Tony Abbott has 131,000 twitter followers and Malcolm Turnbull 170,000 followers. My grand-daughter tells me that these figures can be manipulated, but the scale of Rudd’s connection through social media is remarkable.

Google searches in recent days reveal the same interest and enthusiasm for Kevin Rudd. Even talk-back radio listeners are showing interest.

Kevin Rudd may not win the election but he has certainly thrown it wide open. His appeal is that he is a different sort of politician who is not beholden to the political system. The public so far seem to be responding. The machine politicians and the media don’t seem to understand. They look at politics through a different prism. The public distrusts the political system. So does Kevin Rudd or at least he doesn’t respect it the way that political insiders do. That is his appeal.


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