“I’LL BE BACK…”: The Chance of a Political Comeback as Party Leader
Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
Faculty of Human Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Political leadership has become increasingly volatile in recent times, as experienced directly by many of the leaders of both major parties in Australia over the last few decades who have been ousted by their own party. While some of these leaders have returned to power, others have faded away into history. Political capital can play a key role in the demise or reclaim of leadership and an immediate response can become critical not only in preventing any further loss of political capital but to begin the re-building of political capital towards a return to a leadership position. This study examined ousted political leaders and the likelihood of a return to leadership. Attribution theory was applied to the first press conference given by six Australian major party leaders immediately after having lost their leadership and were analysed thematically to show what the attributional causes of their successes and failures were during their tenure as party leader. The results indicate that what one says and how one says it can be important for their prospects of returning to the seat of power. The major party leaders who returned to power tended to acknowledge successes due to the collective group, while the other major party leaders tended to attribute the successes to themselves and failures on external factors, including their own collective group. The results illustrate the importance of how one handles one’s downfall in order to climb back up.