With the next election now at most four and a bit months away, the reality faced by the Coalition can perhaps be best summed up by a recent conversation I had with a decades-long rank and file member of the Liberal Party:
“Can Scott Morrison find a way to win the…”
So deep is the damage done by months of gaffe-prone and at times incoherent government, that even some among the party faithful increasingly view a loss at the next election as a foregone conclusion, with only 21 per cent of voters believing that the Morrison government can win the next election.
As opposition leader Bill Shorten and the Labor Party enter full-on campaign mode, a genuine alternative vision for the future from the government remains conspicuously lacking, as the clock ticks away the days remaining before an election must be held.
This lack of vision and a genuine policy platform, has left voters wondering what exactly does Prime Minister Scott Morrison stand for?
Since taking office Morrison has often haphazardly jumped from one policy thought bubble to another, in the vain hope that eventually, he would hit upon an issue where his policy standpoint resonated with the wider electorate.
This lack of a clear commitment to a real agenda has left some Coalition voters wondering why Scott Morrison was chosen to ascend to the Prime Ministership in the first place. More than one Coalition voter has shared their frustration with me regarding the failure of the LNP to choose the only alternative candidate who offered any chance of a fresh start, former foreign minister Julie Bishop.
From Morrison’s daggy and often cringe-worthy attempts to connect with the electorate to the bus tour through Queensland that was actually conducted mostly by plane, the Morrison’s government has endured one public relations misadventure after another, never allowing the Coalition’s ministerial team much meaningful airtime to concentrate on actual policy.
If the LNP is to have any chance of being competitive in the next election Morrison must jettison his clumsy attempts at folksy charm and concentrate on what has been considered the Coalition’s biggest strength in the past, actual policy that delivers real outcomes for everyday Australians.
After the current ongoing polling disaster was triggered by the removal of Malcolm Turnbull, the Coalition has never meaningfully regained the political momentum, seemingly constantly stuck in a loop of opposing whatever policies Labor has proposed rather than attempting to pursue a strong policy agenda of their own.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s ongoing social media battle with shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen is perhaps the perfect example of this failure to seize the initiative. Instead of proposing wide-ranging policies to reassure Australians that the Coalition will safely navigate the dangers and pitfalls of a slowing global economy, Frydenberg is engaged in a Twitter war with Bowen, quite literally sharing gifs of train wrecks in response to Labor’s proposed policies.
Despite the multiple scandals, infighting and a series of public relations gaffes the Coalition’s Newspoll results still remain above their Abbott and Howard government lows, this is likely due to voters concerns about the potential nature of the Shorten government alternative, rather than an affirmation of support for the Coalition.
A late comeback from the Coalition is not outside the realm of possibility, if the Morrison government finally gets on with the business of actually leading the country and listening to the concerns of the Australian people, rather than acting like a party that is perennially stuck in opposition mode.
By addressing the concerns of the Australian people on issues such as immigration and the economy, the Coalition can begin to rebuild its reputation as a consultative government that is a strong economic manager, in essence to remind the everyday battlers that a Coalition government can once again work for them like it did in the past.
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