Latham's election one big Labor gamble

Tuesday, 2 December 2003

The election of Mr Mark Latham as ALP Leader marks a turning point for Labor, says Associate Professor Carol Johnson of the University of Adelaide's Politics Discipline.

But, says Associate Professor Johnson, who has followed Mr Latham's political movements for some time now, the Labor Party is also taking a huge gamble.

"There are huge risks. Mr Latham will have to moderate his earlier views if he wants to retain the support of many prominent women and left MPs who reportedly voted for him, and in order to work with the trade union movement," Associate Professor Johnson says.

"Voters may see him as macho and aggressive rather than a loveable larrikin. His extreme economic rationalist policies could alienate aspirationals as well as other voters. His rejection of many traditional Labor values could lead to electorally damaging divisions within the ALP.

"Whatever the outcome, Mr Latham's election marks a major turning- point in Labor strategy, rather than more of the same," she says.

She adds that Labor MPs are also hoping that Mr Latham's populist appeal to the "outsiders" and suburban "aspirationals" will counter- act the dangers involved in his rejection of many traditional Labor views.

Associate Professor Johnson has detailed Mr Latham's move away from previous Labor traditions on economic policy, class, race and gender equity in a recent paper: "From the Suburbs: Mark Latham and the ideology of the ALP", presented to the October Australasian Political Studies Association Conference and available at:

Associate Professor Johnson says Mr Latham's supporters are also gambling that his larrikin style and opposition to the Americanisation of Australian society can counter-act Mr Howard's appeals to a more conservative national identity.


Contact Details

Professor Carol Johnson
Discipline of Politics
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 3 8313 5809

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814