Since Mark Latham joined Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, taking the reins of New South Wales branch of the party, much of the political and media commentary about this unlikely alliance surrounds the obvious potential for it to all go drastically wrong.
Given both Hanson and Latham’s at times abrasive personalities and a previous inability to work well with others within their own parties, there is a likelihood they will reach a point where the continued partnership may become untenable.
But what if they don’t?
What if through a combination of greater experience and an acknowledgement of the obvious political advantage the other brings to the table, they find a way to make Latham’s participation in One Nation truly workable.
Latham brings a great deal to the table in joining One Nation, his experience as leader of the Federal Labor Party combined with his innate ability to craft an evocative political narrative could add a new dimension to One Nation’s appeal, for a party that seemed to have once again reached its peak.
Against someone like Bob Hawke in his prime, Latham would have likely struggled against his ability to strongly resonate with the electorate. However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Bill Shorten are in a completely different league to their predecessors, often failing to fill the rather sizeable shoes of those who came before them.
In a discussion with a swing voter regarding Latham’s decision to join One Nation, she summed up his appeal in one short sentence “at least he tells it like it is”. With this newfound ability to connect with disenfranchised voters from other parts of the political spectrum, One Nation could become a party that appeals to a wider cross-section of the electorate.
Latham’s appeal gives One Nation a real opportunity to connect with Labor voters who want a return to a traditionalist political narrative, rather than the party relying on taking voters from the right flank of the Coalition.
In Latham, One Nation may have found their own Trump-like figure, a firebrand individual who is intent on recapturing the “golden age of Australian values and opportunity”, in essence, to make Australia great again.
This political narrative of attempting to return Australia to its “best years” will likely have a broader appeal than the traditional One Nation platforms have had in the past.
By embracing a message based upon hope of a better tomorrow, rather than one based on a fear of losing what we already have, One Nation could potentially become a more potent political force than they have been in the past.
With stagnating wages, a surging cost of living and the nation’s chronically underfunded infrastructure buckling under the strain of the existing population, the current political climate represents the best opportunity for a Latham infused One Nation to take the fight to the two major parties.
In a recent interview with 2GB former prime minister Tony Abbott said that Latham’s involvement in One Nation might make the party a “formidable force”, he went on to say that the LNP has to take the threat of Latham’s involvement in the party seriously.
However, the public position of both the Coalition and Labor is that Latham’s involvement in One Nation is not a factor they are currently concerned about. With shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen stating in a press conference that Latham was a “pretty sad and pathetic joke”. Morrison also found humour in Latham’s involvement with One Nation saying that Latham’s political life was “a bit like the bachelor, handing out roses”.
Despite the major parties brash dismissal of One Nation’s potential impact, the threat of a One Nation becoming a resurgent third force in Australian politics cannot be understated, should Hanson and Latham find a way to make their political relationship work.
With a declining share of the primary vote indicating just how frustrated voters are with the major parties, the Coalition and Labor will be ignoring a resurgent One Nation at their peril. In a political environment where the Australian people increasingly feel like politicians from the major parties have failed them, Latham’s brand of old-school politics may be just the political and ideological shift One Nation needs to appeal to a wider range of the electorate.
Tarric Brooker is a freelance journalist and political commentator.
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