Friday, 20 February 2009
OK, so maybe not that slow. Julie Bishop’s departure has made crystal clear what was apparent before – that attacks on her undermined Turnbull. Complaints of Bishop’s performance as economic spokesman implied that there was something wrong with the coalition’s economic tactics and by implication, the leader in charge of it. The steady drips on Turnbull’s credibility that this blog noted a month ago as a sign that the Liberals were starting the process of getting rid of him, has now become a flowing stream – channelled down the right drains, of course.
The way Turnbull is being undermined is clever. They are turning his lack of control over the party’s organisation against him. Because Turnbull came to the leadership by default, rather than a result of a decisive shift in the party’s direction, he is left without the sort of organisational support any leader would expect, especially in a party as leader-centric as the Liberals. But when he attempts to get the normal sort of organisational backing in place, it is being portrayed as Turnbull trying to impose his ‘agenda’ and create splits in the party. This is not just confined to important positions like the federal director and party president. Even an attempt to put one of his henchmen, er, Christopher Pyne, into the role of manager of opposition business attracts outrage. Apparently, not content to lead the party, Turnbull seems to want to run it as well!
Because this is not a clear political row about some external development, but rather an internal one about the purpose of the party, the lines are not clear and keeping shifting. One day it seems to be the left v the right, another day the old guard v the new guard and another day NSW v Victorians. So the pace and direction of this undermining of Turnbull is difficult to tell. It is why Costello keeps bobbing up to the surface without even saying a word. Yet because the lines are so in flux and with no clear alternative exists, what have clearly been attempts to undermine Turnbull can easily spill out of control and just lead to party fragmentation. There was a sense yesterday that the anti-Turnbull forces in the old guard have begun something they may regret.
It is no surprise the Great and Good of the Victorian Liberals piled into the party HQ in Melbourne to get direction from their former leader and an idea for a clear way out of this mess. Well, for a speech that focussed on the economic crisis and the government’s strategy, there are two things to say about it. Firstly, one has the funny feeling that Howard’s lauding of his government’s regulation of the banking system wasn’t quite the same speech he has been earning a crust on over the last year on the neo-con lunch circuit. Secondly, although he didn’t like Rudd’s blaming ‘neo-liberalism’ as the cause, not unexpected perhaps, Howard gave not a single reason for what did cause the crisis. So no comfort there then.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Friday, 20 February 2009.Filed under Political figures