20 February 2010


As soon as David Clarke threw a tantrum at the prospect of not getting preselected again, the NSW Liberals should have called his bluff and dumped the ungrateful little bastard straight away. He has contributed much less to the State and the Liberal Party than acknowledged wasters like Jeremy Kinross or Terry Griffiths.

The moderates, led by Michael Photios for old time's sake, have shown their strategic and intellectual poverty by cutting a deal with that toothless old devil. This was their chance to render him roadkill on the path to victory, and to ensure that no trace of his appalling ideas - special breaks for weird and oppressive religious cults, and culture wars all the time instead of sound policy - ever made it into government. Their candidates are strong enough to beat off the creatures Clarke would have sooled upon them, and to contend otherwise is sheer bluff.

The Liberals cringed before Clarke, and they will pay a high price. No mad lefties remain in the ALP's parliamentary ranks to make a case for moral equivalence. Any agreement Clarke made to secure this preselection will be broken whenever he feels like it, whatever the consequences: Clarke repels ten votes for every one he attracts. He doesn't understand government, or the society which is being governed, which is why he throws the switch to culture war whenever he feels neglected. It was stupid politics for those controlling blocks of votes to chain themselves to his carcass. Clarke is 66 and will be 73 by the time this upper house term is up. David Elliott, by contrast, is not yet 40, and by the time this term is up he could have been a minister.

By voting for the status quo against the hope for change - and even the most committed Clarke fans have trouble painting Elliott as some sort of radical - the moderates have underlined the stupidity and poverty of conserving their party's status quo against the hope for change. The generation that tried to purge the NSW Liberals of the Ustasha feared that they would come to be seen as part of the Liberal furniture: thus the reason why a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get rid of them has again gone begging.

If the loss of Clarke had meant a setback for the current generation of moderates, this need not have been a bad thing. The moderates have never had so little clue about what to do, nor so little support, in the face of such poor opposition, as they have now (how did Howard become any sort of rival to Menzies? Why is Abbott the titular federal leader, and Minchin the actual one? Clarke's survival underlines moderate failure rather than negating it). They could at least have gotten back on Clarke for what he did to Brogden, Forsythe and Ryan (a couldabeen Premier and two future frontbenchers): but Photios has always been about "looking forward", which in this case means maintaining the status quo. The position they are now in, where any attack on David Clarke is an attack on moderate liberals, is truly absurd. Their fate is to be used as Clarke's human shields because they have neither the sense nor the skill to do anything else.


  1. derrida derider22/2/10 12:48 pm

    It's hard to disagree. Clarke's retention was a great victory for the ALP.

    It won't stop them going down to a well-merited defeat next election (who'd be a NSW voter faced with this choice?), but it markedly improves the chances that they'll only be in onoppostion for one term.

  2. I think Labor underestimates how endemic its difficulties are. It's one thing to get rid of old failures, as happened when Labor lost office in the 1980s, and replace them with young turks; it's quite another to tell people who are now in their 40s that they've had it, to shunt them aside and replace them with people who are now staffers and who are unable to see what else should be done.

    I think you underestimate O'Farrell in government: he's not like Rudd nor like Kennett or Greiner. He's more like Bolte or Howard, he'll get in and dig in.

  3. derrida derider23/2/10 1:12 pm

    We'll see. O'Farrell may be all you say but he'll be like Turnbull; constantly trying to quell his own party's vote-losing appetites. The Uglies have far more sway than Howard's Wets ever did.

    The ugliness in NSW Labor is endemic; actually its been endemic in all NSW politics dating back to the Rum Rebellion (ambitious politicans in league with bent coppers to benefit greedy property developers). But the political incompetence is more recent; after all, from Wran to Carr "ugly but competent" would be a fair description. It's only since the men (and women) on the make took over that that they've let their greed dominate their political sense.

    The greediest will have no stomach for oppoition so they'll jump rather than have to be pushed.

  4. You've made two fundamental errors there, dd.

    First, Barry O'Farrell has forgotten more about retail politics in a major party than Turnbull ever learnt.

    Second, Wran and Carr only trimmed around the edges, they didn't do root and branch reform.

    I reckon some of them will be hard to shift, harder still with the relative weakness of Sussex St. It's long been a conceit of other states that they are free of the convict stain, but Victoria and Qld seem to find themselves repeating the same patterns again and again.