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Anthony Albanese’s Resolve poll result could prove the death knell for his leadership: PETER VAN ONSELEN on why PM will be very worried today

Houston we have a problem!

That is certainly the sentiment echoing in the Labor Party caucus today, following the release of a poll showing Peter Dutton as the preferred candidate for Prime Minister over Anthony Albanese.

That is the same Dutton who we are constantly told is unelectable and deeply unpopular.

Now if he is compared to the Albanian, he is the preferred candidate. What does that say about the Prime Minister’s approach?

But the bad news for Albo doesn’t end there. Labour’s primary vote is in the toilet, down to just 28 percent – ​​a new low for this government.

Albo looks a bit wobbly in the polls: Usually it is the death knell for a government when an opposition leader overtakes a prime minister as preferred prime minister.  That's what the Prime Minister had to deal with today

Albo looks a bit wobbly in the polls: Usually it is the death knell for a government when an opposition leader overtakes a prime minister as preferred prime minister. That’s what the Prime Minister had to deal with today

For context, Labour’s primary vote at the last election was 32.6 percent and that only helped the country secure its smallest parliamentary majority.

And whether it’s managing the economy, national security or the cost of living crisis, those polled say Dutton is better placed to handle any issue than the Prime Minister is capable of.

You can trace the crisis in the Labor leadership back to Albo’s poor handling of the Voice referendum.

He prioritized the issue over managing a collapsing economy just as voters came under increasing pressure from higher mortgage payments and grocery bills.

Now he’s in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, a housing crisis, fears of skyrocketing immigration and an economy that’s tanking while interest rates remain stubbornly high.

All issues that voters do not consider him adept at.

When an opposition leader overtakes a prime minister as preferred prime minister, it is usually the death knell for a government.

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It could even spell the end for the Prime Minister before an election even takes place, if there are clear contenders to take over waiting in the wings.

Anthony Albanese has neatly sewn up his party room numbers.  Above, he relaxed on the feet with fiancé Jodie Haydon last Friday

Anthony Albanese has neatly sewn up his party room numbers.  Above, he relaxed on the feet with fiancé Jodie Haydon last Friday

Anthony Albanese has neatly sewn up his party room numbers. Above, he relaxed on the feet with fiancé Jodie Haydon last Friday

As Kevin Rudd overtook John Howard as favored Prime Minister, the Labor leader began measuring the new curtains at The Lodge.

When Tony Abbott overtook Julia Gillard, she lost the Labor leadership. When Abbott endorsed Rudd 2.0, the coalition knew the election was theirs for the taking.

Like Dutton, Abbott was another opposition leader who was branded unelectable.

Bill Shorten never rose to dominate the Prime Minister’s favored rating, which perhaps explains why he fell short in two elections before Labor turned to Albanian.

Albo eventually surpassed Scott Morrison as preferred prime minister, after which there was no return for the portfolio that ex-prime minister amassed.

It is fair to say that Dutton’s lead is as small as it can be: he is only 36 to 35 percent ahead of Albo as favored prime minister.

Meanwhile, 29 percent of voters can’t even bring themselves to favor either candidate.

And it’s the first time Dutton has been ahead, in just one Resolve poll.

Newspoll, for example, still had Albo ahead the last time it tested voters’ mood.

But if Dutton’s rise in personal ratings holds, and if he even extends his lead in the coming months, it will fuel leadership tensions within Labor and could lead to the first victory of a first-term opposition leader on a government for the first term since 1931.

It could also delay Labor from calling an early election, hoping to turn its fortunes around in the summer before facing voters in the flat half of 2025.

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Is it possible that Albo won’t even make it to the elections? Rolled by nervous colleagues who have decided he’s a dead leader walking around?

Safe (for now)

Before anyone who opposes the Labor government and negatively assesses Albanese’s performance gets too hopeful, I think he is safe in his job (for now) and is unlikely to lose the next election, despite the shortcomings be so clearly visible.

Internally, Albanese has neatly stitched its party room numbers together. The leftist factionist has isolated the only member of the left capable of overthrowing him. Tanya Plibersek does not receive the support of her group.

On the right, the only viable alternative at this point is Treasurer Jim Chalmers. But he is not particularly popular within the factional right, especially within the powerful NSW right. In fact, they despise him.

And as treasurer, Chalmers has led the economy at a time when voters don’t think the government is doing particularly well on that front.

In short, Albo’s failures on these core issues are also Chalmers’s fault. A shared responsibility that undermines the argument for replacing one dud with another.

Internally, Albanese has neatly stitched its party room numbers together.  On the right of the party, the only viable alternative at the moment is Treasurer Jim Chalmers.  But he is not particularly popular

Internally, Albanese has neatly stitched its party room numbers together.  On the right of the party, the only viable alternative at the moment is Treasurer Jim Chalmers.  But he is not particularly popular

Tanya Plibersek (right) does not receive the support of her own left-wing faction

Tanya Plibersek (right) does not receive the support of her own left-wing faction

Internally, Albanese has neatly stitched its party room numbers together. Tanya Plibersek (right) does not receive the support of her own group

As for the elections, even if Albanians’ popularity continues to decline, Dutton must overcome the troublesome presence of the Teal MPs.

In their affluent, once blue-ribbon Liberal seats, their popularity as local MPs is underpinned by musings on everything from climate change to advocacy for diversity. Weak spots for Dutton in the eyes of Teal voters.

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While it’s easy to see the Labor majority of 78 seats collapsing into the high 60s, taking away the government’s majority, it’s hard to see the Coalition taking its current 54 seats to more than somewhere in the mid-60s .

That would ensure that Labor would have a greater number of MPs in the House of Commons and could therefore argue that it is in a better position to form a minority government, with the support of the Greens and also some of the Teal MPs.

Tanya Plibersek doesn’t have the support of her faction… The powerful NSW right hates Jim Chalmers

It would be an ugly victory and a harbinger of a destabilizing second three-year term for Labour.

But it’s hard to see Dutton doing better than such an outcome in the next election.

And if Labour’s fear campaign against nuclear power catches on, that in itself could be enough to convince disaffected voters to reluctantly give the government a second chance.

The problem for Albo is that a narrow victory as mentioned above almost guarantees that he will not survive his second term as prime minister.

He will be dependent on the Greens to govern, which is hardly an antidote to voters’ dissatisfaction with Labour’s economic management skills.

And such a defeat for Dutton would be seen as good enough to give him a second chance, just as Abbott was given a second chance after narrowly losing the 2010 election to Gillard. Three years later he became prime minister.

Are we about to witness history repeating itself? Perhaps, unless the government has a devious plan to pull itself out of the quagmire it finds itself in.

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