By Andrew Bolt ~
(Where you see the word Liberal here in reference to the name of the political party, that Liberal Party of Australia is the major political party from the Conservative side of politics here in Australia…..TonyfromOz)
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals are running the ultimate marginal seats campaign, under the influence of pollster Mark Textor.
Textor put the strategy neatly last year in dismissing the traditional Liberal base, and especially the conservative wing:
“The qualitative evidence is they don’t matter,’’ Mr Textor said. “The sum of a more centrist approach outweighs any alleged marginal loss of so-called base voters.’’
The view, put bluntly, is that such voters have nowhere else to go. Their preferences will always flow to the Liberals in the end. Forget them.
And so the Liberals are this election not just campaigning hardest in the marginal seats where the election will be won or lost. They are also campaigning hardest for the swinging voters – and with this novel twist: they are campaigning for them at the direct expense of their base.
In fact, you could almost say Turnbull’s Liberals in some respects are campaigning against their base.
Some examples of this strategy:
– Turnbull is campaigning against “the rich” by mounting a grab on superannuation even more punitive than Labor’s.
– Turnbull is refusing to promise any substantial spending cuts beyond those promised by Tony Abbott.
– Turnbull is promising bigger government and more taxation for the next three years – not just in absolute terms but as a proportion of GDP.
– Turnbull is ruling out any substantial IR reform.
– Turnbull is refusing to be interviewed by prominent conservative presenters, preferring the ABC instead.
Of course, I shouldn’t take this argument too far. On the other hand, Turnbull is:
– maintaining the popular line on stopping the boats, as, indeed, is Labor.
– promising a tax cut for business, albeit one spread out over 10 years, requiring us to vote for Turnbull as often as we voted for John Howard.
This strategy of snubbing conservatives has benefits. For one, it means Turnbull has the grudging support of normally Leftist journalists who believe that any enemy of conservatives is a friend of theirs. Hence the ABC and some Fairfax journalists are still largely supportive of Turnbull, although increasingly frustrated that he hasn’t broken loose yet and revealed his inner Leftist.
But there are also these dangers.
– Liberals frustrated at being taken for granted are refusing to help some marginal seat MPs they accuse of being disloyal – notably Peter Hendy in Eden Monaro and Fiona Scott in Lindsay.
– Liberals are more likely to give their first preferences in the Senate to minor parties they think better reflect their core values, making the Liberals less likely to control the Senate.
– Liberals are more likely to vote for Labor if given a good reason to do so – one involving self interest in particular. (The Liberals’ super grab is one, and Labor announcing a better Budget bottom line, if it chooses to do so, may be another).
– Liberal disunity could hobble the campaign.
– The extremely weak mandate for change being asked for by Turnbull could make his post-election government look infuriatingly weak to his supporters, raising the risk of more internal instability.
– Turnbull is starting to open the door to the rise of a new conservative party that could be to the Liberals what the Greens are to Labor.
Turnbull is lucky that such tensions are masked or muted by the terrible strife Labor is having over boats and refugees, which is ironic given that Turnbull’s relative toughness on boats comes from promoting hard-line policies he took from Abbott and would never have had the daring or courage to implement himself.
One further thought on this. The Liberals’ marginal seats strategy means that the overall poll figures showing Labor ahead mean nothing. Turnbull’s team correctly says that the vote in the marginals is the real story, and that vote is holding up. Journalists are largely buying that story, as they should.
But this was exactly what Tony Abbott’s strategists were arguing, too. Campaigners such as Brian Loughnane also argued that the crucial marginal seats were reasonably solid, and that Labor’s lead in the overall polls was misleading. But the Turnbull forces and the media refused to accept that story and tore Abbott down.
“We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row,” thundered Turnbull when announcing his coup. Yet Turnbull has now lost the last three Newspolls in a row and we’re not supposed to turn a hair.
Things like this really stick in the craw of more traditional Liberal supporters, and many are just itching for the opportunity and excuse to lash out. They are sick of being taken for granted.
Andrew Bolt writes for the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, and The Advertiser and runs Australia’s most-read political blog. On week nights he hosts The Bolt Report on Sky News at 7pm and his Macquarie Radio show at 8pm with Steve Price.