The 19 August Fairfax-IPSOS poll showed the Coalition with 33 per cent of the primary vote and Labor with 35 per cent. John Menadue added the two figures and deduced that 32 per cent would not have voted for any of the major Parties. The problem for pollsters after the drama of Tuesday morning in Canberra will be knowing what question to ask.
The question that occurs to most of us is why are the Liberals so keen to hand over government to Labor? Just a week ago Malcolm and his colleagues were fixated on killing Bill. Now they line up to kill Malcolm, whose best bet might be to hand over the question to the voters and call an election.
It was surprising, even shocking to learn that Peter Dutton has 35 votes in the Party room. Does he have 35 votes in the country? Are the internal conflicts of the federal Liberal Party a reflection of matching conflicts in the country at large? Only one way to find out.
This is about the Liberal Party and there have been two interesting comments in recent days from experienced observers. Catherine McGregor on Monday defined the Liberal dilemma today as “trying to integrate the infiltration of the Party’s noisiest media barrackers and activists in so-called ‘think tanks’ with the pernicious, pervasive repercussions of the Trump presidency, with the record of the Howard years.”
Catherine is an old friend and admirer of Tony Abbot and she makes a generalisation looking back to Menzies and Howard. She has a point. “Coalition harmony depends on a conservative leader accommodating the moderates.” Turnbull is a Coalition moderate accommodating the conservatives.
John Stapleton in Pearls and Irritations on 16 August raised the possibility for Peter Dutton that it is indeed possible to disprove the old saying and turn a sow’s ear into a silver purse. John informed us that a polished Liberal strategist has gone to work on Peter Dutton’s image. The same political fixer was a key figure in transforming the unprepossessing John Howard into a popular figure.
John’s report reminded me of the entrepreneurial Milo Minderbinder in Joseph Heller’s novel “Catch 22.” Milo cornered the world’s cotton crop at such a bargain price that he bought the lot then had trouble selling it. He solved the problem by coating cotton balls in chocolate. People bought them by the million.
Are we really that stupid? John Howard was Prime Minister for 11 years, so perhaps Peter Dutton is in with a show. Or is this just a prelude to a Tony Abbot challenge?
Jerry Roberts is a student of politics now wondering if he should study psychology instead.