Andrews keeps his head above water while O’Brien finds himself in hot water
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There’s something for everyone in Premier Daniel Andrews’ 52 per cent approval rating in The Age/Channel Nine’s Ipsos poll.
The Premier’s detractors will point out that the figure is way down from the 75 per cent he enjoyed back in April in Newspoll, and not great compared with, say, his Labor colleague Mark ‘Mr 89 per cent’ McGowan in Western Australia.
Premier Daniel Andrews announces the easing of restrictions on Monday.Credit:Paul Jeffers
It’s unsurprising that Andrews has lost political skin through Victoria's pandemic ordeal, but some will be amazed that a Premier who has presided over a disaster on the scale of the hotels quarantine debacle remains in a more than competitive position.
Dan’s fans, and his Labor colleagues, might reflect that 52 per cent is a solid base to recover the political damage he has sustained in recent months.
There’s a big spending budget to come early next month and there's two years before the next election.
Andrews’ supporters may also remember that his approval rating was 52 per cent back in April 2018, seven months before he led Labor to crush the Coalition in that year’s state election.
For Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien there is no solace in this poll. His approval rating is just 15 per cent in the general electorate, rousing itself to 27 per cent among supporters of O’Brien’s coalition.
More worrying for O'Brien personally is that the poll will provide ammunition to the internal critics whose central charge against their leader is that he is failing to "cut through".
One of O’Brien’s problems throughout the pandemic is that while Andrews and his government’s dramas have taken up so much time, the Liberal leader has been starved of attention. ‘Cutting through’, even at a time like this, has been next to impossible.
But O’Brien's messaging has been all over the shop, too, lurching from constructive opposition leader, careful not to be seen playing politics with a pandemic, to angry prosecutor-in-chief of the government.
If the latter version feels forced, like O’Brien is mouthing someone else’s lines, it’s probably because he has been dragged by internal Coalition currents into places where he’s not entirely comfortable.
Liberal MP Tim Smith’s antics have been only part of the internal pressure on O’Brien to take a more aggressive line against Andrews.
The Liberal party room, the party's federal leadership and the Nationals all made it known that they wanted O’Brien to muscle up to the Premier. They got what they wanted. Trouble is, the electorate isn’t impressed.
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