15 February 2009

Playing the long wrong game

Julie Bishop has had a fair go, but Julia Gillard is wrong to make her out to be some sort of fall girl. Bishop knew what she was getting into, she had her chances, and she simply isn't what the Liberal Party needs right now in a deputy leader.

Julie Bishop has had a fair go at being Shadow Treasurer. She was a good minister outside Cabinet but now she's out of her depth. For all his failings, Wayne Swan has the Federal Treasury advising him, and Bishop does not - Bishop's job is made harder, not easier, by Coalition Senators demonstrating their pissantry to Ken Henry. She has failed to master the brief of shadow treasury, and shows no leadership on economic matters within the opposition, let alone beyond it. She should not go into another role because any Cabinet role would be too hard for her, and the deputy leadership is not a consolation prize.

The shadow treasury should not go to Hockey or Robb, because neither are true believers. Neither of them are baffled by the public rejection of John Howard, neither of them think that wondering What Would John Howard Do? is the way forward for the Liberal Party.

Tony Abbott should become Shadow Treasurer. His shortcomings are well defined and he is a "job snob", in that he refuses to do the shadow FAHCSIA job to which he has been assigned. However, he truly believes that tax revenues go up in a recession as rates go down, he truly believes that nothing is worse than debt, and he is truly undermining Malcolm Turnbull in his rodent-like way. When Abbott said anything particularly stupid, Turnbull could simply contradict him in a back-me-or-sack-me standoff. You'd bet that Nick Minchin wouldn't waddle off to the loo while a Senate division was taking place over one of Tony's powerplays.

Stand up and fight, ye conservatives! Do you think Churchill would have hid behind some banker, bleating about "clear air" and distinct difference from the socialists? What about John Howard shirtfronting Hewson in the final week of the 1993 campaign, that's political courage for you! Let's have a red-in-tooth-and-claw conservative take on all this Labor debt head-on! Anyone else is just not going to have the conviction necessary to crash through. Put your best man up and if he succeeds, then bully for you.

Malcolm Turnbull's deputy needs to be someone who can smooth his rough edges, a sounding board both for Turnbull himself and a backbench feeling left out. The deputy needs to be someone who can keep everyone focused on the job at hand, someone not quite so polished or thrusting as the leader. Someone who is a conservative, but not to the point where (like Abbott) they're linked closely to this deadshit. No, I can't think of anyone like that either, but that's what they need.

Conservatives, like the communists many of them were, fancy themselves as playing the "long game". Their trouble is that the game changes: neo-conservatism is behind us not ahead, the current economic predicament alters the once-immutable rules about regulation, and neither Aborigines nor carbon have turned out to be the "passing fads" that they need to be for conservatism to maintain its conceits. You can only lie doggo for so long until people start ignoring you. Stand up and fight the rearguard action for Howardism! If you really believe far-right-isn't-far-enough, then now's the time to save the 2010 election. It's not the lefties who are in the marginals any more, a swing against the Liberals could produce a party room that doesn't give Nick Minchin the respect he is due (you can stop that cackling right now).

Start by vacating the deputy's role. If you've got the numbers to roll Helen Coonan and Marise Payne, you can roll Julie Bishop. Put in a true believer and accept the verdict. If the people reject John Howard again in 2010, have the good grace to accept the verdict and leave the Liberal Party to those looking for a new direction through these different circumstances, someone who can beat Rudd by the only effective measure - the dreaded "me-tooism".

Update: Larvatus Prodeo gave me a going-over, see my feeble efforts at 60, 61 and 64. Alex Hawke for Shadow Treasurer!


  1. The Liberal party had one chance, the nutters left stage right, it didn't happen. Sweden had a left wing party in power for 80 years, that is the record the Labor party should now be judged by.

  2. I want the far right drawn out and exposed as inadequate.

    Never mind Sweden, NSW has been governed by Labor for 60 of the past 80 years. NSW is the standard by which Labor should be judged.