The Textorising of the right
Let me make a confession, one that should you utter it out loud would mark you with a scarlet letter in the upper echelons of polite Queensland LNP company.
You see I quite liked the Campbell Newman government in my home state. Sure, the ex-military premier advanced on too many fronts at the same time – for instance, simultaneously getting rid of civil servants (I was in favour); preparing for asset sales (again, I was in favour); taking on the judges (in theory, by all means, but handled with stunning incompetence and without seeking any friendly advice hence ultimately accomplishing worse than nothing); focusing on the massive state debt (a must for any of us with children); standing up to the unions (a no-brainer you would think) and more.
The core point is that Team Newman had values and political beliefs; it had clear goals aimed at improving things in Queensland; in the off-putting jargon of our times it had a ‘vision’ to sell, something worth engaging in a political fight for and volunteering your time and money to help accomplish. Oh, and even when it lost in early 2015 by one seat it still managed to win 41 per cent of first preferences in a black swan maelstrom of minor party preference deals against it and with many voters feeling free to deliver a protest vote because the polls said the LNP would still win.
Compare and contrast that Newman loss to this past week’s LNP debacle under Tim Nicholls.
First off, the LNP this election were effectively apologising for the former Newman government, half-conceding that the package of platforms sketched out above was somehow ill-advised or worse, morally suspect. I cannot tell you how annoying that insipid, small target, ‘just stay a few yards this side of Labor’ political strategy was, at least to me. Save for being too ambitious and taking on too many political foes at once (plus the above-mentioned sheer incompetence in dealing with the judges), I don’t think there was anything at all to apologise for as far as the Newman agenda and government were concerned. And I sure hated the implicit concession by Team Nicholls that there was. If our side of politics is embarrassed to defend asset sales and debt reduction and shrinking the size of the public sector, and I mean really defend them as the right actions to pursue, then it’s hardly surprising that regular LNP voters will desert the party in droves and feel about as enthusiastic as Bill Clinton heading home to tell Hillary about Monica.
You can think of this new Queensland LNP strategy as the Malcolm Turnbull/Mark Textor-ising of right-of-centre politics, or more charitably as the aiming to ape the Angela Merkel strategy where winning is everything and why you might wish to win is relegated to an inconvenient footnote.
The idea here is just to stay a smidgeon to the right of Labor and assume your supporters will have nowhere else to go. Well, give me the over-ambitious Newman approach any day. If I’m going to lose – and in politics losing is inevitable, you will win some and lose some – then I want to go down fighting for something. Anything. Alas, here in Queensland Team Nicholls hardly mentioned the ballooning state debt at all. It was more ‘don’t mention the debt’ than it was making economic policy a centrepiece of the LNP campaign. (Remember, small target is the seeming game nowadays.)
Yes, support for the Adani mine was there, but limp-wristed, and not in a way that had Mr Nicholls ruthlessly attacking the Premier for her flip-flopping, want-it-both-ways positioning on the issue. Nor in a way that took it right to the virtue-signalling idiots by pointing out that it’s far better for the world’s environment to have Indians burning this high quality Adani coal from one mine than the lousy low quality stuff from a hundred Indian mines that would otherwise be burned.
If there is one thing any Liberal/National politician should have bred in the bone it is an ability, and a desire, to attack just about all aspects of the Greens’ worldview. In fact, as Mr Nicholls was being pilloried by the left-leaning press over how he would deal with One Nation, I longed to hear him say in reply that Labor is perfectly happy to deal with the Greens and that they are a worse force in this country, a greater threat to our prosperity and freedom, than is One Nation. Or at least to see him work out a coherent way to deal with One Nation. He managed neither. Indeed the LNP/One Nation first preferences matched those of Labor and the Greens. But such was the way Labor pushed the LNP into self-defeating tactics that One Nation preferences were electing Labor here and there while LNP ones were doing the same at least once.
But let me give you a feel for the depth of the LNP central headquarters’ commitment to crucial issues. Guess what one of their very first election pledges was? Ready? Are you sure? They promised to force supermarkets to ban plastic bags. It would be funny if you weren’t living in the place.
And what has all this genuflecting at the altar of a value-enervated managerialism earned our supposedly right-of-centre LNP party in Queensland? Well, it got 33.5 per cent of first preferences, nearly 8 per cent fewer than Campbell Newman in the election he lost. It led to One Nation snagging nearly 14 per cent of first preferences (a lot more than the Greens, though the usual lefty media love the latter and bend over backwards to downplay the vote-getting potential of the former).
And it generally gave up on any strong commitment to small government, pro-freedom, stand up to PC nonsense campaigning that might make winning matter.
As of the time of writing this piece the final tally of seats is still unclear. Labor might squeak out a bare majority or it might need the Katter party to govern. Regardless of which outcome eventuates, it is tempting to give in to despair about the state of the Liberal Party/LNP in this country.
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