Kathy Marks: Premier's tearful words boost morale

As recently as last weekend, Anna Bligh was deeply unpopular among Queensland voters and her Labor government seemed unlikely to survive the next election. But the leadership she has shown amid a dramatic escalation of the state's crisis has won her many plaudits and, possibly, reinvigorated her political fortunes.

Queensland's first female Premier, Ms Bligh has shown strength and compassion as her state reeled from floods in the Toowoomba region and braced itself for Brisbane's worst flooding since 1974. As the death toll rose, she seemed to grow in stature, calm and reassuring with a no-nonsense approach.

She clearly cared, and she knew what Brisbanites were going through. Her mother lives in a low-lying suburb, West End, and as the flood peak neared, Ms Bligh's brothers and sons helped to evacuate her to the Premier's home.

With Brisbane holding its breath, Ms Bligh delivered two-hourly updates to the public. At a press conference yesterday, she wept, briefly, as she enumerated the many areas of Queensland affected by the state's worst natural disaster. That just made her seem all the more likeable.

The floods could be Ms Bligh's Falklands moment, rescuing her from political oblivion. "Cometh the hour, cometh the woman," wrote John Birmingham, in The Sydney Morning Herald. "And from Queensland's dark hour comes a woman we never expected to meet. Anna Bligh, hero."

Another author, Jessica Rudd, was equally admiring on the MamaMia website, "Anna Bligh manages to respect and reflect Queensland's somber mood without perpetuating its panic", she wrote, "she's 'she'll-be-right-mate' personified."

Ms Bligh seems to have refined the art of reading the public mood. "This weather may be breaking our hearts," she said. "But it will not break our will."