Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A brutal business, politics

John Howard is a great Prime Minister and deserves to be re-elected but it looks like he will not be. The question is whether Howard will lead the Liberal Party going into the election or whether he will be replaced today by Peter Costello. Given Paul Kelly’s account in The Australian today Howard has serious problems, if not immediately, then in the lead-up to the election. Kelly’s claim is that Howard has lost the support of most members of his cabinet.

I think Howard should be retained as he offers a faint chance of drawing things back for the Coalition versus none at all from Peter Costello. If the primary vote polls are driving opposition to Howard then the personal approval polls should provide support for Howard.

I disagree that Howard is holding the party to ransom by not resigning. Howard is simply being consistent with his long-held view that he has the best chance of winning. I think he is correct.

I also disagree that Peter Costello - a man I admire - is displaying cowardice by not challenging. At this stage he cannot challenge and history is, well, history - yes it might have been better in retrospect if he had done in last year. If there is an electoral rout of the Liberals Costello will have attractive options outside politics anyway. Good luck to him!

The rat-left press (particularly Australia's worst newspaper The Age) have pursued an unrelenting campaign against Howard that was based purely on their intention of driving the last coffin nail into the Coalition. Their campaign may now turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It will be an interesting Liberal Party meeting this morning. I’ll update then

Update: Nothing happened. Costello will back Howard. Watch the gutter media work hard to turn this nothing into something.


Patrick Connellan said...

You talk about the 'rat left' press. How do you explain then that the members of the fourth estate who have been most vociferous in calling for Howard's departure have been his biggest fans - Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun, and Paul Kelly and Dennis Shanahan in The Australian?

The notion of the media being 'left-wing' is a fanciful one clung to by some conservatives to justify the growing irrelevance of their arguments.

Only The Age could be described as left-leaning. The SMH is centrist, The Australian and the Murdoch tabloids well to the right and the commercial radio and television networks all in Howard's camp.

As to the ABC, it has been so nobbled by Howard's board stacking that it has been leaning over backwards to appear middle-of-the-road - so much so that its mainstream news coverage could be described as pro-Liberal.

The fact is that Howard has lost the centre of Australian politics by dragging the Liberal Party to the far right.

Moderate conservatives and small 'l' liberals like myself feel we have no home there.

The Liberal Party needs time in opposition to rediscover its soul.
If it can't, I think we need a new centrist party in Australian politics that advances economic liberalism, progressive social policies, republicanism and an independently minded foreign policy.

hc said...

I don't know why Bolt and ACC Board appointee Albrechtson turned on Howard. Albrechtson says she thinks Howard was a very good PM but is a loser. As I argue I think his reelection prospects however dim are better than Costellos.

I have previously criticised The Australian for its distortionary coverage of the Labor Party.

The Age has been appalling. Every morning for months it has sought to discredit Howard.

I disagree with your assessment of the Liberal Party's performance - there has been no strong shift to the extreme right. There are a range of views in the party on many liberal/conservative issues.

For example, there are Republicans and non-Republicans in the party as there are in Australian society.

The Liberal Party has never been a small l 'liberal' party. Its a mixture of conservatism, small-l liberalism and social democratic principles.

Anonymous said...

I could not have stated the case better than Patrick has!

Anonymous said...

Howard's dilemma:
Cut and run or stay and get done.

Steve said...

Harry, what bothers me about the likes of the Larvatus Prodeo reaction to the leadership issue is the juvenile taunting of Cabinet "not having the guts" to do something about Howard. It seems to me that Liberal supporters more or less watch from the sideline when Labor has leadership issues, and don't go in for the lip smacking dance-on-your-grave attitude that the likes of Mark Bahnisch has displayed in for over the last 48 hours. I suppose it is tied up with their general perception of Howard as fundamentally evil, as opposed to the attitude that I reckon most conservatives have that Labor may be well intentioned, but is wrong in practical terms.

It may be silly optimism on my part, but if I can see one positive of this it may be that it has really heightened the personal stakes for Howard to perform well in a campaign. He really does need to pull a few popular policy ideas out of the hat to stand a chance, though, I think.

derrida derider said...

Nah, Harry, the simple truth is that the Libs have slowly moved well to the right of the median voter, especially on social issues. Their determination to fight the culture wars - as unwinnable as Iraq - has caught up with them.

Only Howard's excellent political skills have kept them in the game for so long at the federal level. The problem has been evident in the states for a long time.

So Howard's right - the problem for the Libs is not him. Rather it's what he represents. That will be much harder to remedy, so much so that I fear for the quality of government in Australia. When as lazy a government as NSW Labor can't be rolled there's not much incentive for other governments to avoid laziness.

Matt Canavan said...

I think this latest saga is good for Howard. Shows him as a fighter and shows his ticker. Still a long shot but I predict the polls will swing back leading up to the election.

Anonymous said...

Enemy Combatant sez...

Steve and Matt, I just noticed something interesting on CentreBet.

Coalition $3.70

Labor $1.28

Probably doesn't mean anything.

People who whinge: "If the economy's humming, why arn't we, Mr Howard?" are clearly uninformed.

Evenin', H.

Sir Henry said...

Well of course, Harry, as you can see, I have been right all along.

If one is not blinded by ideology, it is not rocket science.

So first of all, let's remove that mote from the eye, your whingeing about The Age is a red herring, it has bugger all to do with Howard's low standing: the reason why the Coalition is in disarray is simple.

You have a bunch of nonetities without a clue and no ideas except those handed to them by their industrialist and Yank bosses by way of instructions. Their job was to sell the shit ansd make it smell like roses.

This bunch of stumblebums was held together by the Prime Minister who was said to be a saleable commodity.

Now that he is no longer saleable, the glue that held the Liberal Party together is gone and it falls apart like a week-old dog turd.

Mr Howard operated on the basis of what the qualitative polls reports (discussion circles of punters shooting the shit then summarised by a slick, fast-talking, gold-toothed operator, a kind of literate Russell Bowker) said.

But what happens if the polls say he is history and it would be best if he retired?

Mr Howard at first tries to fly without a parachute. But it is not very convincing. You can't cheat gravity.

I said on this blog earlier this year and again after the Budget, Mr Howard is a recidivist dissembler and the voters have decided they have enough. I mean, how can you believe anything he says? For example, did he announce

WorkChoices as a policy before the last election?

You are what you eat. Or say.

hc said...

Jack my deluded though dear cobber,

The age has persistently pursued a case against Howard for months. That is true.

My view is that the Coalition team as a whole is stronger than Labor not that individuals are better. Costello will be a better Treasurer than Swan etc. That's a fairly carefully made judgement. I don't think Peter Garrett and the lovely Maxine are much chop.

I wonder if Russell Bowker survives?

Sir Henry said...

It's a brutal business this history, all right.

It has a curious habit of catching up with dud analysis, in the fullness of time, to paraphrase Alex Downer.

When I said here on this blog, that the US went to war in Iraq over oil, you called me deluded (as you did this time), insisting that GW Bush was acting out of higher motives than realpolitik and economics and family connections. You threw in notions such as "higher morality" and so on.

But now the ex-boss of the US Reserve is backing old Henry to the hilt in his latest book:

"Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in his new book, says the US went to war in Iraq motivated largely by oil.

"Greenspan said: 'I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.

"Greenspan's book also criticises President George W Bush for not responsibly handling the nation's spending and racking up big budget deficits.

"A self-described "libertarian Republican," Greenspan takes his own party to task for forsaking conservative principles that favour small government. "

hc said...


The incorrectness of accusations of delusion in one setting does not necessarily mean that the same accusations of delusion in another setting are wrong. That's the obverse of the 'paternal-maternal' proposition - 'yes dear, you are always right'. Errr...I think that's right.

I mean, yes, oil has a role in the conflict. The Gulf supplies 70% of the world's oil and the western economies would collapse if it fell into the hands of the mad mullahs. I wouldn't want that and nor would you. If you were dealing with an economy whose main export was chicken shit you might not look so hard at it.

But motives are irrelevant it is what people do that matters. The US strategy in Iraq in disbanding the army etc seems now to have been wrong but that is a sunk cost. It would be catastrophic if the US withdrew now and it is very ugly even if it doesn't.

This is hard. Why didn't you comment on my wine post? Its Sunday afternoon and I nam off to hit some golf balls!

In fact I like that line. In response to any difficult question that pins me to the wall with its incisiveness I'll just say 'I am off to hit some golf balls'.