Turnbull: The ballad of the small government and the big nothing

Jed Hutchinson discusses whether Malcolm Turnbull was the man to reverse the Liberal party’s fortunes after all.

THE CONVENTIONAL wisdom regarding an unpopular leader being replaced is that the successful challenger will receive a “honeymoon” period of good polling for a brief period of time afterward.article-9224-hero

During this time, the incoming leader has a grace period to settle in some, find their feet and set about correcting the sources of public sentiment flowing so strongly against their party.

In the case of Tony Abbott, you had an unpopular PM yoked to a plethora of unpopular policies. When Malcolm Turnbull strode out of Parliament House to challenge for the Liberal leadership, glowing and exuding an aura of victory in September 2015, it seemed the only logical choice for the good of his party and the good of the people.

Abbott had been given his tap on the shoulder previously – in February 2015 – and consecutive polling up until September showed an inexorable downward trajectory for the Liberal Party, pointing towards utter annihilation in the next election. Between those crucial probationary months, Abbott stood by his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, thereby angering his party and made no meaningful policy concessions to appease voters.

Turnbull seemed to be sitting back patiently, waiting for the party that rejected him only a few years earlier to beg him back to the leadership. He courted a protracted and finely executed campaign of public relations to woo the public to him, with leather jacketed Q&A appearances spouting moderation and doorstop interviews to the effect that he was the leader his country needed. All that was required for Turnbull to take the leadership, it seemed, was for him to sit back and let Abbott continue on his path toward complete political self-immolation.

Perhaps it was hubris or the resolution of a six year saudade but although Turnbull was victorious in taking over the prime ministership, he fatally misjudged the circumstances under which he won. At first glance, Turnbull’s numbers seemed solid at 56-45 in his favour, two party preferred polling in the following weeks reversed the fortunes of Labor and Liberal parties (somewhere in total wipe out territory at the time). There also seemed to be a sense that sanity was being restored to our highest offices. Australian politics had never seemed so embarrassing as during the two years of the Abbott Government.

But if only six of those MP’s sworn to Turnbull’s cause has shifted allegiance to Abbott, we’d have had a result in Abbott’s favour. It seems less likely that the Liberal party was begging for Turnbull to return — rather that Turnbull had pulled the trigger at the first available opportunity. Despite public appearances of a man..read more at Independent Australia


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