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  • Writer's pictureCrisis Shield

ALP crisis over to you crisis expert

Leadership crisis, brand crisis, identity crisis…what can Labor do now to shore-up its future? As specialists incrisis communications, we at Briggs Communications have been asking ourselves, what would we do if Julia Gillard called us now and said: ALP Crisis over to you crisis expert?

Crisis experts are often called in to recover control of a situation when there seems to be no hope. Crisis recovery requires swift action to identify causes, isolate problems, and restore stability. The major causes need the most urgent attention.

There is no doubt the Prime Minister left pressing crisis management decisions hanging in limbo for too long. Fresh from a bloodbath at the Queensland election, the party is nursing gaping wounds with Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson embroiled in expanding scandals. Labor advisors have allowed these scandals to advance, unabated, which has very effectively undermined any positive news the party might have hoped to promote last week.

With no decisive stance from ALP leadership to support crisis media management around these contentious issues, the media has been in speculation overdrive. Then, after returning from overseas, Julia Gillard executed an about-face this week, shelving Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson until findings are handed down from investigations into their respective calamities. The title of Katharine Murphy’s opinion article in The Age this week said it all Labor on the critical list.

It seems the fundamental causes of the current ALP crisis are lack of trust, respect and relationships, both internally and externally. The goodwill bank is well and truly drained of funds for Labor, and for Julia Gillard. Even the Prime Minister’s backflip on Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson this week has incurred a backlash as the public expresses frustration in the lack of constancy and credibility shown by the nation’s leader. But then, trust has been a long-standing problem for Julia Gillard. She has demonstrated a tenuous grip on the notion of keeping her word, and allowed herself to be known as deceptive and untrustworthy.

This year the public has been privy to Labor’s fraction within. Clearly these three key elements – trust, respect, relationships – are not strong in Gillard’s team. A successful leader must be able to trust their team to be open and honest. Solid and genuine relationships engender a team environment where leaders can expect staff to be forthright with facts, even if these are potentially sensitive or harmful.

The Prime Minister needs to square up for a full and frank chat with her team, behind closed doors, to establish the facts. In providing a final opportunity for staff to air dirty laundry, Julia Gillard can stabilise Labor’s platform and ensure there are no more surprises.

Perhaps then Labor will have the inner strength to resurrect its brand with careful attention to core Labor values. Without trust and stability anchored in clear values, there is nothing for Labor to cling to in adversity.

It remains to be seen whether the ALP and our Prime Minister can recover from their current political maladies. It may be too late to salvage leadership at the next election, but Australia’s oldest political party has to consider its long-term prospects and arrest the brand’s downward spiral.

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