Will the Canberra press gallery ever learn? Probably not.
For as long as I can remember, members of the left-leaning media wolf pack that covers Australian federal politics have got things spectacularly wrong.
Election after election, their judgment has been fatally skewed by their visceral dislike of any politician to the right of the centre. They just can’t help themselves.
Even at the best of times, journalists at the centre of the cauldron that is politics are ill-equipped to read the mood of the electorate. Their vision is too distorted by their proximity to the action. But this hasn’t stopped the Canberra press corps from making fools of themselves by allowing wishful thinking to cloud their election predictions.
This time the more cautious hacks at least read the signs a little more carefully than usual and stopped short of predicting a Labour victory. Instead, they busied themselves portraying Liberal leader Tony Abbott as some sort of grotesque religious freak.
It was hard to read anything about Abbott that didn’t sneeringly mention the time he once spent in a Catholic seminary, his nickname the Mad Monk (bestowed on him by – you guessed it – the Canberra press gallery) or his supposed predilection for wearing Speedos (nudge nudge, wink wink – the guy must be some sort of sexual deviate too).
To their credit, the Aussie voters saw past this. Indeed I wonder how many Australians voted Liberal because they objected to this sustained and unsubtle character assassination.
Ironically it now looks as if Abbott might have the last laugh, just as the bland John Howard did when he more than once confounded media pundits’ confident predictions that he would be wiped out at the polls. But don’t expect the Canberra press gallery to change its ways. Self-doubt just isn’t their style.