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Forget the wing - put Abbott at five-eighth

By Richard Stanton - posted Monday, 16 January 2012

I've got a mate who's fond of observing Australian politics. He makes frequent informed comments, usually in the form of text messages from his phone after he has read a few things about a specific policy or event.

His recent text message, however, was puzzling. It read "Put the abbott on the right wing and give him a run".

The metaphor is easy – imagine opposition leader Tony Abbott as a rugby wing three quarter, give him some space and let him take the ball up to the goal line.


We can expand this into election imagery – running into space and scoring tries is the same as winning an election. All that's needed is room to move.

In real terms, however, Tony Abbott is already on the wing, running well and scoring tries.

In this he is a specific type of thought leader.

Herein lies his biggest barrier to diffuse popularity – and it is a barrier that he may not be able to step around in time to win the next federal election.

Mr Abbott is a homophilous thought leader. As if this is not bad enough he is also a monomorphic thought leader.

Homophily is a fundamental principle of human communication where ideas and innovations are more likely to be shared more frequently between people who are alike in beliefs, education and socioeconomic status.


The opposite of homophily is heterophily. This requires one to step outside ritual boundaries to take meaning from or communicate meaning to those with a different set of values or beliefs.

Monomorphic thought leaders tend to focus on a single issue. The alternative to a monomorphic thought leader is a polymorphic thought leader – obviously one who is comfortable being across a variety of issues.

Mr Abbott has accumulated a number of the important characteristics of a thought leader – great exposure to news media; broad interpersonal networks; extensive contact with change agents; and the capacity to always be 'on the edge', which means he is not on top of things but that he acts as a broker between groups.

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This article was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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