A staged implosion – final update

Thursday, 29 November 2007 

Thank goodness for Tony Abbott, because it was starting to get a bit surreal. When even right-wing columnists like Pearson claim that Turnbull will be a shoe-in for the Liberal leadership, it raises the question as to whether it is Pearson or the Liberals who have ascended into fantasy.

Turnbull is bright, dynamic and a good communicator and probably the most popular leader the Liberals can choose. There is just one tiny problem, the Liberal party doesn’t agree with most of what he says.

Turnbull reflects the strange state of the Liberal party after the election, which looks much better than it actually is. An election that was fought on sham debates of the past like Workchoices and union power ended up helping the Liberals to keep their heartland better than expected, but not for any reasons that will have much relevance going forward. On paper the Liberals look to be in with a chance next time, it looks like they only need a 2% swing to return to power. However, in reality the Liberals position owes more to an uninspiring campaign from Labor than objective conditions, which should become more obvious as Rudd consolidates power.

The Liberals are in a strange sort of limbo at the moment that would have produced some medium-term stability if Costello had have taken up the leadership and given the pretence of continuity. However, his departure (and possibly Downer’s) and Abbot’s inability to get support for his leadership are the last stages of the leadership implosion that began when Howard lost his nerve at APEC.

Now the Liberals have been forced into a leadership election that they are not prepared for and while they are still in a state of denial, which they are managing by resuming the attacks on Howard’s legacy that started even before the election. Into that leadership vacuum, ever oblivious, walks Malcolm.

However, despite the leadership collapse, it seems hard to imagine that given they were willing to follow similar policies under Costello only a few days ago, they will throw it away and adopt one that looks more like Keating’s. Sooner or later the Liberals will go tribal as they struggle to re-find their core and if Turnbull actually wins today, he will eventually find himself the leader of a party that is not following. Abbott’s warning that a challenge will come from him at some time was only saying out loud what everyone in the party, except possibly Malcolm, knows.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Thursday, 29 November 2007.

Filed under State of the parties

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