AT FIRST blush the decision by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to lock in September 14 as the election date seemed sensible and logical.
The election was due about August so much of the year would have been dominated, and probably wasted, by election speculation.
By killing that speculation, the government could get on with framing a solid budget in May and we could look forward to some properly costed policies from Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey in June/July.
Ms Gillard, with hand on heart, declared that by announcing September 14 as the date, "I do not do so to start the nation's longest election campaign. Quite the opposite, it should be clear to all which are the days of governing and which are the days of campaigning."
Ms Gillard was 100 per cent wrong with the first part of that statement and 100 per cent right with the second part.
It has been 31 days since her announcement and we have had 31 days of campaigning in what will go down in the history books as definitely the longest election campaign.
Practically everything that the federal government and ministers have done and talked about in the past month has been all about 2014 and beyond - reading blitzes, new dental schemes, Gonski reforms, national disability insurance schemes.
How about some governing for here and now?
A string of poor polls, a lovers tiff with the Greens and an increasingly nervous group of backbenchers facing oblivion in September have Labor in damage control rather than running the country.
And, to cap it all off, another election gimmick popped up in the past week.
Western Sydney has a string of marginal Labor seats - 16 seats are held by less than 10 per cent - and is the heartland of party factional control.
If Ms Gillard is to retain her leadership, she needs to placate these nervous MHRs and others around the country.
She has visited Western Sydney 17 times in the past year and tonight she heads to a Rooty Hill hotel to stay four nights and give the impression that she supports and understands Western Sydney.
Ms Gillard says that she will pay for her stay at the hotel and her staff will pay for their own accommodation without ALP support.
Why should her staff be out of pocket when they are just doing their job, and what about the extra cost of the police and federal security that accompany every visit by a PM?
Rooty Hill will be in lockdown for this stunt when Ms Gillard could be staying 45 minutes up the road at Kirribilli at no extra cost to the taxpayer.
Will other marginal regions, like Bass and Braddon, see the PM stay for a week, or is this about appeasing New South Wales factions?
Labor is languishing in the polls and the real danger with stunts like these is that voters will see a desperate prime minister resorting to desperate electioneering ploys when the country needs direction, certainty and leadership.