THE FALLOUT from Labor “leader” Bill Shorten’s vapid budget reply last week goes on, with ALP identity and former NSW Treasurer Michael Costa declaring Shorten’s “leadership” finished and unflatteringly comparing him to beaten British Labour leader Ed Miliband, whose policies were likened by a Blair-era Labour strategist to “a steaming pile of fudge.” No more than an evasive union puppet, Shorten has become the Liberal Party’s star asset.
In the aftermath of the Abbott government’s second budget — light on economic virtue, perhaps, but far better received politically than its disastrous first effort, and calibrated at least to stimulate economic activity without the incursion of tens of billions of extra debt, a la Wayne Swan — the best critique to date of opposition “leader” Bill Shorten’s contribution to the budget debate has come from perhaps an unlikely (if prescient) quarter, and remarks by former NSW Treasurer Michael Costa bring that missive to the attention of this column this morning.
We spoke last week about Shorten’s reply to that budget, which left him exposed as nothing more than an economic Neanderthal, wrecker, and political thug who — just like his party — cares solely for power, not people, and it seems that just like his trendy Lefty deputy Tanya Plibersek, others in Labor’s ranks are realising and/or declaring publicly that not only can Shorten not lead the ALP back to office, but that the party’s offering to the public under his vacuous stewardship heralds little appeal to the cynical voters Shorten nevertheless expects to propel him into The Lodge.
This morning’s article is intended only as a discussion point, for I will — other commitments permitting — be back tonight to talk about other aspects of Australia’s political Left, and the Labor approach as it stands to attempting to reclaim government whenever the next federal election is held.
But the intervention of former NSW Treasurer and ALP strongman Michael Costa is a telling one, for Costa is not known for any penchant for gifting the Liberals a free kick; Costa’s message — that Shorten has presided over the hijacking and control of the Labor Party by unions that have pushed the party dangerously to the Left, and that the ALP’s message to the public is now an uninviting one indeed — is not only accurate, but reflects intensifying scrutiny within Labor ranks of a “leadership” that seems increasingly likely to guide the party to a second consecutive shattering defeat.
His declaration that Shorten’s “failure” to respond appropriately to Australia’s debt and deficits problem (a direct creation of the last Labor government) has shattered the party’s economic credibility is highly damaging to Shorten, and his description of his “leader” as an advocate of “kindergarten Keynesianism” — whilst amusing if you sit on the same side of the political fence as I do — is a viciously correct assessment of precisely what Labor stands for under the redoubtable Shorten.
Yet it is his comparison of Shorten to Ed Miliband — the leader of British Labour who this month led that party to its worst election result since 1987, when it suffered the second of two near-wipeout losses against former PM Margaret Thatcher — that is most telling.
About a year ago, an adviser to former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown rounded on Miliband (known colloquially in England as “Red Ed”), declaring the now-former leader’s policies to be tantamount to “a steaming pile of fudge;” his argument, which will seem all too familiar to those who keep a weather eye on Shorten, was that Miliband’s leadership of Labour was “dysfunctional” and had given the British public no reason to vote for it.
I’d encourage readers to take the time to read that last article I’ve linked, detailing as it does former Labour adviser Damien McBride’s critique of Miliband; it was a warning summarily dismissed by the British Labour leader’s cabal of insiders, but as the general election result three weeks ago proved, it was unerringly astute.
It might as well have been written to describe Shorten. The parallels between both the two leaders and the situations they face/d against relatively unpopular first-term conservative governments elected in part to fix the damage caused by their own parties are striking.
None of this will trouble Shorten, of course, who it seems has responded to Costa by noting the latter provided support for Shorten’s tilt at the Labor leadership after the 2013 election loss.
Support and loyalty in Shorten’s view, it seems, is a one-way street, for whilst it is clear he apparently expects an initial declaration of loyalty to remain beyond review where his own tenure is concerned — and the response to Costa clearly shows it — his own record of disloyalty to and sabotage of his colleagues (including the serial knifing of two Labor Prime Ministers) shows he labours under no perceived obligation to return the favour in like kind.
It is the gradual realisation that Shorten is unelectable and the withdrawal of support for his leadership that will eventually salvage the ALP’s prospects, if it is backed by reasoned, realistic policy positions that appeal to the majority of voters, and to that end Shorten Labor can and should be viewed as the provision of a one-way ticket to nowhere for his beleaguered party.
In the meantime, chalk Costa’s intervention up as simply the latest senior ALP figure to (rightly) withdraw their support for Shorten. Many more will follow.
The comparison to Miliband is both accurate and devastating, but it won’t register one jot with Shorten, who remains committed to peddling his very own “steaming pile of fudge.”
In Miliband’s case, that particular endeavour ended in tears, humiliating defeat, and bitter recriminations.
Shorten’s own date with a similar destiny draws closer by the day.