We’ve had fluffy dogs and bulldozers, but not a definitive answer for what a Morrison or Albanese government can do for us | #socialmedia

Before what feels like the interminable 2022 election campaign began, Labor was testing advertising with voters in focus groups. The party’s leader, Anthony Albanese, wanted to have his beloved little white fluffy dog, Toto, in some of the ads, prompting conniptions from Labor’s advertising consultants.

“No,” they were heard to cry. “Just no!”

Little white fluffy dogs might be very nice. But do they convey the sorts of images about leadership that we want in our leaders?

Years ago, the former general secretary of the NSW Labor Party, John Della Bosca, perhaps unwisely observed in an interview that former federal leader Kim Beazley needed to convey a bit more political mongrel. Cartoonist Patrick Cook promptly drew a picture of Beazley walking into a pet shop with an ALP apparatchik.

“We want to buy a mongrel!” the apparatchik demands.

“Do you have any fluffy ones?” inquires Beazley.

Anthony Albanese and his dog Toto.(Twitter: Anthony Albanese)

So, it’s been amusing to watch Toto turning up in social media content, which has been harder for the hard heads to control. There was Toto on Albanese’s social media accounts, for example, sitting next to him at the dining room table while the Opposition Leader was in COVID isolation working on his campaign launch speech.

Appearances aren’t, and shouldn’t be, everything. But, they are a lot in politics.

Much was made about Albanese’s appearance by the Coalition in the early days of the campaign: that he had lost weight, got different glasses. The suggestion was they were all signs that he was a bit of a fake.

The fluff and the crucial elements of the campaign

But that was in the days before a prime minister who invented his Daggy Dad persona got entangled up in his own remake: a man who decided a week ago that changing was a good thing; conceding that he had in the past been a “bit of a bulldozer”, then reversing that… sort of.

By Friday morning, veteran radio host Neill Mitchell was asking Scott Morrison: “So what? Are you a bulldozer with different gearing? Or a whipper snipper? Or a lawnmower?”

A bulldozer with a different gear, apparently. But one who, in a bad turn for appearances, was seen to have crash-tackled a small child on a football pitch.

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PM Scott Morrison accidentally bowling over a kid in Tasmania

These pictures, and word pictures, are both the fluff and the crucial elements of an election campaign.

But 2022 has been a campaign more than most where the two leaders have been defining themselves in terms of each other.

While the Prime Minister has been arguing that he is the strong leader, the man who has made the tough decisions, he as much as Albanese seem to have been running their campaigns by playing against, being defined by, what they think the other represents, not by what they necessarily are selling themselves.

That is, the “You might think I am not very good but the other guy is even worse” pitch.

Whatever both are selling, the daggy dad and the boy from the council housing signify the long-term shift in the images politicians use to sell themselves to us. They are just like us now: the everyman who stumbles and makes mistakes, not the leaders who strived to look like all-knowing patricians who we wanted to respect.

Equally, and rather bizarrely when you think about it, the campaign has seen a certain passive tone on the question of what a Morrison or Albanese government can do for us.

What about the policies?

In an ideological sense, that is more understandable from a Coalition which doesn’t really believe in government and which indeed proudly says it wants to get government out of our lives and our faces.

But in its efforts to get into government by sticking as close as possible to the Coalition on the greatest number of issues, Labor, too, has not been too keen to suggest it has much influence over events or policies that can change the country.

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