Vacillating to survive

Wednesday, 30 July 2008 

As Nelson makes another excellent impersonation of the cushion the last bum sat in, it is hard to follow what is going on if the line of some of the media is believed that the manoeuvres of the last four weeks were instigated by him.

There is no real reason to suppose that Nelson believes any more in the idea that Australia should wait for the rest of the world to introduce an ETS than yesterday’s position that they shouldn’t, or three weeks ago when he also thought they shouldn’t or the intervening period between when he thought they should.

Nelson is only focussed on one thing, to survive, and to do that he needs to manage both sides of the debate and prevent either side taking over. It is quite easy to believe reports that Nelson didn’t especially push his new sceptic line that hard with the shadow cabinet yesterday. The shadow cabinet would have put up some fairly convincing arguments yesterday, not least that the sceptic line is hugely unpopular with even their own supporters.

But they are not the ones Nelson has to please with a sceptic line. They will be lurking among the backbench today and are not going to let it rest, just as they didn’t the last time Nelson reached a compromise with his front bench. From the luxury of the sidelines, the old leadership can argue what they themselves could not resolve when they were running the party and government; how to reconcile a policy position that is electorally unpopular and increasingly out of touch with the global political agenda but that at least defines what the party stands for. Howard managed it by formally standing for an ETS but campaigning like a sceptic (Paul Kelly doesn’t seem to think he did, has he forgotten Howard’s reaction to Garrett’s campaign ‘gaffe’?). Given the crisis in the party that has now come to the surface since then such a balancing act is no longer sustainable. The threat of heavy electoral damage is persuasive, but probably not decisive.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 30 July 2008.

Filed under Political figures

Tags: , ,


Comments are closed.