To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to lose one ‘divisive’ Liberal may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness. What about five?
The Facebook-cancelled, Covid reprobate and general stirrer, Craig Kelly has gone to the cross-benches, ahead, no doubt, of either being shafted at his next pre-selection and/or defeated as an independent candidate in the federal seat of Hughes. A huge loss for the sensible centre of political life.
The ageing, big-C conservative warrior Kevin Andrews was dumped at his recent pre-selection in Victoria for a fresher face. Yes, Andrews had been there a long time, and yes, he (peculiarly) played a role in the ascension to the Senate of the deeply non-conservative Sarah Henderson in 2019. But Andrews was also one of the few remaining links to the Tony Abbott-era still in the party. Hence his departure is one of significance.
The promising young conservative and victim of online and real-life trolling by GetUp! thugs, Nicolle Flint, is abandoning a promising career in Canberra to get on with a life free from bullying by leftists, including – perhaps especially – by those who call themselves Liberals, but aren’t.
George Christensen, who held Dawson in Queensland for the Liberal National Party (LNP) in 2019, very much against the odds and in style, has announced that he will not stand again. While the mighty George cited the desire to be re-united with his family post-Covid-separation, he tellingly referred as well to the difficulty in advancing his conservative agenda. I assume he meant advancing it as an LNP backbencher in today’s Liberal party. He also spoke of the ‘broken state’ of Australian politics.
Finally, we have the dynamic ‘arch-conservative’, Grace Tame-baiting Assistant Minister Amanda Stoker losing a Senate pre-selection in Queensland to the far less conservative apparatchik James McGrath. The latter was once described by Alan Jones as ‘the leader of the bed-wetters’. He was also sacked in 2008 by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. Oh, and he played a key role in the assassination of Tony Abbott by Malcolm Turnbull in 2015. He was not just a supporter of Turnbull’s. He has been labelled ‘Turnbull’s numbers man’. One journalist has accurately characterised the standoff between Stoker and McGrath as a fight for the ‘heart and soul’ of the party, with some gender politics and Queensland factional madness thrown in for good measure.
People routinely called divisive, controversial, ‘Christian right’ or arch-conservative by certain media outlets seem to be on the run from the Coalition, or worse, put-upon to vacate their positions so someone from the recently branded ‘modern Liberals’ can step in. This is the newly emerging Liberal party of Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, et al.. Advance Australia recently noted that, ‘Far-left political agitators, GetUp!, have asked their supporters to “thank” federal Liberal politician, Trent Zimmerman for “standing up to the climate wreckers” and “taking climate action”.’
Included in GetUp!’s praises are several other ‘modern’ Liberals from Sydney and Melbourne, namely, Katie Allen and Jason Falinski as well as Wilson and Sharma. When you have won GetUp! over, you know that you are aligned with the wrong people.
While GetUp! focussed its cheersquadding of these modern-day wets on their ‘climate action’ and energy policy, they might equally have praised their overall left-of-centre, globalist, woke world-view that informs their policy positions on a far broader range of economic and social issues than just environmentalism. Not to mention their faction’s increasingly successful efforts in ridding their own party of conservatives, often through pre-selections conducted largely by the ideological, aided and abetted by the clueless and the pragmatic. Doing GetUp!’s work for it, you might say. Engaging in mopping-up operations to cancel the few remaining conservatives left after Abbott’s earlier execution. It all begs the question – whose Liberal party is it these days?
The recent passing of Andrew Peacock reminded us all that the Liberal party’s vicious, internal wars over fundamental ideology are nothing new. Memories of the mid-to-late 1980s came rushing back. Perhaps it was the ultimate pragmatist-conservative John Howard, and only Howard, who was able to maintain the fiction of a united ‘broad church’ party of liberals and conservatives by dint of his deft and effective leadership over many years. Leaderly, principled centrism can take you much of the way towards that very good place where all voices within a right-of-centre party are given a fair go. But Howard is gone now. Abbott’s many enemies within and outside the party saw him off eventually, with help from the same GetUp! and, no doubt, barely stifled cheering from the ‘modern Liberals’.
There is no doubt that the current leadership of the Liberal party – not to mention that of the newly woke Nationals, these days more brokeback than Black Jack – is nowhere near up to the task of asserting a conservativism that the enemies of tradition and principle would term ‘divisive’. Even the forthcoming re-arrival of the paleoconservative Nat and elder statesman, John Anderson, welcome as this will be, is unlikely to make up for the exit of the other warriors who have either simply had enough or who have been unceremoniously shown the door.
The stampede for the doors by traditional Liberals who have given up the fight, or who see it as now impossible to prosecute effectively in today’s Liberal party, is not a healthy development for those who crave traditional values, spine and rectitude from their elected representatives. As Advance Australia has noted, ‘This is not what most Coalition voters voted for in 2019’. Indeed.
When the consistently clear voices of sanity in politics are located on the cross-benches, as they are, tellingly, in the case of Mark Latham and (soon) Lyle Shelton, it is perhaps past the moment to call ‘time’ on the broad, tolerant church of ideas that once was the Liberal-National coalition. It is noteworthy that someone like Shelton should choose the Fred Nile party (Christian Democrats) in New South Wales over the LNP. And if the latest “mysterious” robo-calling in Dawson about reactions to George Christensen possibly standing as an independent is anything to go by, the choice of third parties or independent candidacy may become the default strategy for those wishing to advance the conservative cause.
Those for whom anyone branded Liberal (or National) is to be endlessly supported because ‘at least they are better than Shorten or Albanese’ might crow at each election victory, ‘we won again’. One should be extremely cautious about loudly celebrating hollow victories.
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