The only way Albo will ever be PM
There is a quiet revolution taking place within the Labor Party but it's not the revolution that radicals dream of.
It is a revolution born of common sense and common people.
A realisation that angry chants and socialistic us-and-them talking points don't resonate with mainstream Australia.
Indeed, it's not so much a revolution as a revelation.
But it is still quiet, as quiet as the so-called "Quiet Australians" who elected Scott Morrison when nobody was listening.
I have spent much of the last few weeks talking to central Labor figures.
Not necessarily those in parliament but union leaders, heads of think tanks, ex-ministers and senior advisers.
MPs come and go but these are the always purring engine of the Labor movement.
And they are all saying the same thing: The party must move back to the centre. The heartland calls.
This is what working Australia wants and needs. They don't shout it on Twitter or go on street marches or smash shop windows. They just quietly let us know at election after election after election - none of which Labor has won.
Wise heads in the party now understand this. The undergraduate dog whistle of class warfare is gone - a sensible move given it is typically activists from the tertiary educated upper-middle class who keep calling for it. Their backs would be first against the wall in any real revolution but they wouldn't know enough proles to form a firing squad.
Labor is the party of the worker but the working-class is not the great lumpen mass that arts graduates fantasise about liberating at inner city dinner parties. It is a galaxy of smart and streetwise people who are doing everything in their power to take care of their families and maybe even get ahead in life.
As the great Neville Wran once said, the whole point of the working class is that you want to get out. Only the grossly overprivileged fetishise the virtues of poverty.
Of course there are also those who are cripplingly impoverished and struggling to even survive. The homeless and welfare dependent, those who live from week to week or day to day, for whom every sunset is a both a small victory and a terrifying new challenge.
These are people I know, who I once was, and I can promise you the last things they care about are critical race theory or intersectional feminism. I'm also pretty sure they don't give a s**t about diversity quotas at the Oscars.
There is a place for such parlour room debates and that place is the Greens caucus room. If only it had a door that locked from the outside.
Meanwhile in the real world, there is real work to be done. Some in Labor have been spooked by Anthony Albanese's failure to get traction during the coronavirus pandemic, just as some in the Liberals have no doubt been heartened by it.
Both should cool their jets. Most citizens naturally gravitate to their leader in a time of crisis, assuming their leader is not totally cocking things up.
There is little doubt that Scott Morrison totally cocked up the bushfire crisis but he is doing a pretty good job on COVID-19. Albo would have been unbackable to be next PM in January, just as he is looking like impossible odds now. Neither of these facts have anything much to do with Albo himself.
It is probably worth reminding people that while the last six months have felt like three years, they have in fact been only six months. The next election isn't until 2022 and if you think a week is a long time in politics just multiply that by 100.
Hopefully things will look a lot rosier by then. Perhaps the electorate will be grateful to the PM who steered them through such troubled times but electorates have a habit of not rewarding past glories - just ask Winston Churchill. Instead, they look to the future and in a time that will still be scarred by unprecedented social and economic upheaval Albo will at least be a known quantity and a safe pair of hands.
Whether this will be enough to win is impossible to say but it is hard to conceive that he would lead the party to a loss more shocking than 2019.
Labor also still needs to prove it is a stable and responsible party of alternative government, and it is equally hard to imagine that knifing yet another first term leader would reassure the electorate of that.
This brings us to perhaps the most critical problem that Labor is facing, namely the viciousness and toxicity of its self-proclaimed supporters on the extreme left.
Most of these are unreconstructed baby-boomers who never came home from Woodstock and the usual student socialists who are yet to know better. The only difference between now and 1990 is that social media both spreads their idiocy and artificially amplifies their influence - a paradox we can only hope will be met with a reckoning.
They still imagine the ALP to be an overhang of 1970s utopian ideology that is constantly betrayed by its leadership, notwithstanding what happened to that leadership when it attempted to apply such ideology in the 1970s.
Indeed, there are many who say Labor only lost the last election because it was not left-wing enough.
Allow me to lay out this argument: After a farcical six years in which the Coalition knifed its own prime minister in every single term, and in which Bill Shorten actively vowed to redistribute the wealth of retirees and property investors, an invisible cohort of hard left voters said "Labor's not socialist enough for me, I'm voting for Scott Morrison."
It physically hurts the brain to follow this thought process and yet this is precisely what online activists say over and over again, rarely politely. Indeed, bereft of any rationality they embark upon random campaigns of vitriol and abuse. Some are more professional and prolific than others - readers of the Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph may be familiar with one recent example - others are just garden variety pests.
Their strategy is like the chimpanzee at the zoo who s**ts in his own hand just to throw it at anyone who may be watching. It has nothing to do with real Labor policy or real Labor values but anyone who sees or receives it makes the link in their mind and will be put off Labor for life.
They delight not in appealing to voters but in attacking conservatives. And not just conservatives but also moderates and the media - the very forces the ALP needs on side more than any other.
In short, angry hardliners only appeal to other angry hardliners - at least until they inevitably turn on each other. The only votes they change are the ones they repel from whatever cause they purport to support. If I were a Liberal party strategist I would be paying these people. Instead it is a testament to their idiocy that they are doing their enemy's work for free.
And so the ALP needs to cut such scatological animals loose if it ever wants to win government. Australia will never elect trolls to the Treasury benches.
But for all the True Believers and battlers who seriously need a Labor government and want to identify these self-interested saboteurs, the good news is they don't have to. They will read these words and identify themselves.
Joe Hildebrand co-hosts Nights with John Stanley on 2GB at 8pm Thursdays and the politics podcast I'm Usually More Professional on Apple and Spotify
Originally published as The only way Albo will ever be PM