08 April 2008

Colless at brink of irrelevance

In the thin gruel of a Malcolm Colless article, we rarely see a substantial chunk of fact. Paranoia, wild surmisings and seizing on something trivial and irrelevant and squeezing it to death is standard. This doesn't disappoint fans of bare-minimum journalism, where a little bit of useful information serves as a launching pad for doom, gloom and four-year terms.

The little bit of useful information is the Last Stand at Traralgon. Colless accepts without question the idea that three-cornered contests (where both the Liberals and Nationals contest an election against one another) represent political death for the Coalition. Normally three-cornered contests depress the Labor vote, but in the aftermath of defeat the two parties could only enhance their image of weakness by running against one another.

Then, at the end, there is this genuinely marvellous piece of imagery:
"There's no light on the hill, just the sound of crickets in the dark," was how one despondent conservative powerbroker summed it up.


In Gippsland, both parties would produce two mediocre candidates who'd pussyfoot around one another, while Labor would choose a candidate with nothing to lose and keen to give it a red-hot go. The latter qualities would impress people not swayed by party affiliation, rubbing salt into Coalition wounds. You can have all the polls you like, but the Liberals will ignore them and then yell at their scrutineers for "being negative": the Minchin Principle, never tell me anything I don't want to hear. The Minchin Principle put the Coalition where it is today, and will keep it there for some time yet.

The obvious joint-Coalition candidate for Gippsland is Julian McGauran. He's got the name, he's keen for a continuing political career, he has experience of both parties and they're both desperate enough to overlook his past.
Ironically, a fond belief within the NSW Coalition that it will win the next election is driving a resistance to any change in the status quo.

Because what you need to do is cruel the chances of the best chance for Coalition victory. The NSW Coalition is busy building a credible agenda for government - what they need is for Bill Heffernan to come and grandfather them and usher in the Meagher Government.
... veteran Liberal numbers man Bill Heffernan, who sees Gippsland as a watershed in the battle for reform inside the Coalition. He is pushing for a merger in which all existing Coalition positions in the House of Representatives and the Senate would be grandfathered. In other words, sitting members would not be caught in an internal preselection wedge.

What a brilliant strategist that man is: cementing dead wood in place is just what's needed in the face of defeat.
Nelson desperately needs some serious political traction if he is to survive the mounting internal grumblings over the lack of inspirational leadership in the Coalition. Failure to make headway on the Liberals' historical strong suit of economic management could well be the final straw.

There's also the degree to which this response is at all informed by the Listening Tour. Didn't work for Hillary Clinton, didn't work for Andrew Peacock in 1989-90, and I doubt there is a single successful politician anywhere who has bounced back from the ignominy of a Listening Tour to win office, hold it and achieve anything of note.

Malcolm Colless had a factoid handed to him, and promptly dropped it into a festering vat of foolishness. It would be a mistake for the Coalition to regard this man as a trusted intermediary with the public. Get the factoid, ignore the dross - but is Malcolm Colless worth the dross?


  1. I just don't get this guy. Every column is meandering and pointless. You're dead of boredom after a couple of paragraphs, and when you wake up you find he's moved on to something completely different.

  2. (I'm hoping that you're referring to Colless)

    In the context of the OZ, Colless is a queer fish. He is not a journalist (like Steketee), nor a polemicist (like Albrechtsen), nor a gossip (like Milne). Yes, the Liberal Party and conservative politics generally is in a dire state - that's his only consistent position, which is hardly novel or edifying. Having established a theme, he will suddenly jump onto one of his hobby horses (like Laura Norder) and ride roughshod over the very theme he'd established. Then, he returns to his theme - that conservative politics is in a dire state - and by that point he's filled the space allocated to him.