Monday, 30 November 2009
At least the real Red Riding Hood noticed Grandma’s big teeth.
Hockey’s possible taking on of the leadership to ‘heal the wounds’ is based on the idea that 1) there is a possibility for compromise in the Liberals on climate change action and 2) that the subject will go away. Neither is true.
If 1) was true then we wouldn’t have had major party powerbrokers sticking their necks out as sceptics, telling the world that more than half the party were as well and generally upping the ante leading to the mass resignations of last week. We wouldn’t have had that crafty old fox Tony Abbott finally ending a double game where for months he had been claiming that climate change was a fight best avoided (while expressing doubts about the science) and then proceed to do the exact opposite last week.
It was the old guard’s polarisation of the debate that forced Turnbull to belatedly do what, for his sake, he should have done even before he took the leadership, launch a political challenge. The openly personal nature of Turnbull’s attack on Channel Nine yesterday was too much a break from Liberal tradition (the open bit, not the personal) so his challenge is looking pretty busted. Which is a shame, as it would have clarified the weakness of the old guard and generally moved things on. As it is, it gives the old guard more grounds to encourage Hockey to run against Turnbull and provide them with the cover they now so desperately need.
Yet the damage has been done. Both Nelson and Turnbull, until recently, had been trying to compromise with the old guard and it had done them no good at all. It forced both leaders to stick to electoral positions that Howard himself had seen the need to dump, and be bound to a pointless search for ‘values’ and a ‘core base’ at a time when political programmes have little content.
But at least neither came in openly as the old guard’s sponsor as Hockey would now do. Without being defeated their vested interest in pursuing a search for the party’s rationale would continue, but behind Hockey’s back so as to avoid its electoral implications. Their delusion relies on the re-writing of the Howard era and ignoring the reasons for his defeat and is where the interests of the old guard and an old man keen to also re-write his legacy, coincide.
Did anyone get the impression that Abbott, who spent the weekend doing a 70 km bike ride and hanging out at a surf carnival, wasn’t campaigning too hard? Of course not, because the real campaign is not for him to lead – that would expose the electoral bankruptcy of what he stands for. In Abbott’s own words he was merely the “sacrificial lamb” to draw another contender out, irrespective of what he believes and it was where the Grey Eminence went to work. Undoubtedly Hockey’s visit to Howard on Saturday was for the purpose of getting the views of someone who won four elections in a row, not someone who lost the last one.
Hockey’s position is made even worse by the fact that he was trailing Turnbull’s line until only a few days ago, producing a compromised candidate that as Gillard showed with her mocking of him yesterday, would provide the easiest target for the government yet.
The subject of climate change will, of course, not go away either. Not just because it is now the global lingua franca of international relations for the foreseeable future, but also because it will remain core to the government’s agenda. Starting off as a sceptic candidate will neutralise the opposition’s ability to attack the government’s major weakness in its climate change agenda. Namely the gap between a government that has trouble implementing major reform, due to its lack of social base, and its ambitions to change the weather. The grandiose aims of the government and the reliance on international factors outside of its control are likely to lead to cynicism over what goals it can achieve, none of which will be possible to exploit from an opposition branded as not thinking there was never any need to achieve them in the first place.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 30 November 2009.Filed under Political figures