Readers should take this morning’s Newspoll from The Australian, ‘Turnbull beats Abbott on leadership and values’, with a pinch of salt. It doesn’t stack up with the anecdotal evidence, and when it comes to polling data versus instincts, we should choose the latter every time. By 6.30 this morning, the poll had 240 comments, most of which were calling bullshit.
David Crowe writes that the ‘government’s own “base” prefers the Prime Minister to his predecessor, with 69 per cent of Coalition voters backing his values and leadership credentials while 23 per cent favour Mr Abbott.’
But one reader summed it up: ‘Who the hell were they polling?’
Whenever Abbott speaks at a gathering of the faithful, he receives a standing ovation when he gets up, and a standing ovation when he sits down. His ability to invigorate and mobilise the base was on display at the weekend, when hundreds of members turned out to vote for reforms he’d championed. It seems he’s more respected since losing the prime ministership; after all, who among us can’t identify with failure?
It’s clear that democratic reform was a backlash of people who’d felt isolated and unwelcome in a party they thought represented them. Add on the strengthening power of Cyclone Bernardi, sucking in ‘true believers’, and you realise that something had to give.
It’s ironic that just several months ago, Michael Photios claimed his left-leaning Liberals had been victorious. Christopher Pyne declared they were in ‘the winner’s circle’. Now, in NSW at least, there’s been a reset; a game changer.
Claiming total victory is always a mistake. You think those with a different view will just go away. In politics, no one ever goes away.
The chance to shake up ‘the winner’s circle’ should be welcomed. It’s healthy to allow more people to have a say and participate. However, it would be a grave mistake if these changes were wielded against people who have contributed a lot to the party. Of course, incompetence must be dealt with. But it would be dangerous if the introduction of plebiscites resulted in greater turmoil. For example, there has already been talk on Sky News of challenging a sitting member. It would set an awful precedent if the rolling of sitting MPs became the norm. Such a culture would hardly bring harmony to the party faithful, it would just inject more bitterness and disappointment, whilst stripping out donations and volunteers.
After all, the country pays the price for the removal of Tony Abbott every single day. Incredibly, the transactional costs of this decision are increasing. It’s had a ricochet effect of disillusionment, down through all levels of the party, right down to the voters. People may criticise Abbott for speaking out, but we all know the worst damage was done in September 2015.
However, Australia is at a tipping point, and a Shorten government would mean we fall the wrong way. One hopeful thing in this report (something that actually does ring true); Turnbull has widened his lead over Bill Shorten as preferred PM. While Labor persistently leads in the polls, could voters really go to the polling booth in 2019, and give the utterly unappealing Bill Shorten the green light? When it really comes down to it, many just can’t bring themselves to vote for him. A report yesterday that he induces a Corbyn effect seems as off as this poll; he brings all of Corbyn’s economic madness and none of the charisma.
Hopefully, that small lifeline, combined with empowered members, gives the Liberals enough time to gain some ground.
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