New Poll: Change Coming To The Red And The Blue

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER: today I advise readers that this column will soon change; since 2011, we’ve endorsed, analysed, criticised or blasted — in equal measure, with neither side of politics spared — and periodically, we’ve looked beyond Australia or past real politics. Just as “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans,” sometimes it happens when you’re making plans to shape it. In this sense, my column must change too.

I should be saying “12 down, 18 to go” (and it is) — for the Newspoll appearing in The Australian today shows that despite a high taxing, high spending budget that sells out to the bullshit Bill Shorten has spent three and a half years force-feeding the Australian public on, Malcolm Turnbull still can’t take a trick — but in reality, my post this morning is to share with readers the fact that my column at The Red And The Blue will…change…effective immediately.

There is change in the air, and it should be construed as change in a good way; I have always been extremely vague about what I do for a crust with readers, and I don’t propose to alter that policy of circumspection now.

But a redirection of focus in other areas of my life means that some elements of what I have traditionally presented in this column — direct, fearless and unforgiving analysis and criticism, be it of the Left, the Right, the lunatic fringe or the downright ridiculous — will shortly become a conflict, and as such, what is covered here will be adjusted as a result.

I will, in the short term, comment (as time permits) on the imminent election in the United Kingdom, where the Conservative Party under Theresa May is almost certain to record its biggest victory over Labour since 1935: it is, to be sure, the type of electoral contest over pure evil, given IRA-worshipping radical socialist filth like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell entertain pretensions of suitability to govern one of the greatest democratic countries in the world, whose probable outcome warms me to the very fibre of my being.

I will continue to post periodically in this column on issues — particularly of a psephological nature — that I am passionate about; parliamentary and electoral reform, for one thing, when the present system, evolved and fiddled mostly by Labor governments for decades, can hardly be described as either representative or particularly democratic.

And every so often, I’m sure something will happen outside of (but adjacent to) actual politics that will warrant comment: in the time we have been here, we’ve talked about the “St Kilda Schoolgirl,” Qantas, Kyle Sandilands, Muslim riots in Sydney — sometimes with unforeseen (and laughable) after-effects — and it may be possible to sporadically do so.

On a personal level, I have spent five years — ever since enduring a week on my back in 2012 in Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital with pancreatitis, a few months shy of my 40th birthday — just about killing myself to bring about fundamental changes of direction in my life, and that process, ongoing as it is (including a university graduation in five months’ time that will be a quarter of a century overdue) is finally producing the results I knew at the outset would take time to realise.

I would love to tell you what I think of last week’s federal budget; I know some readers were bitterly disappointed when I failed to publish comment.

I would love to tell you what I think of this morning’s Newspoll, although it probably doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots — not least on account of my remarks on the other 11 of the 12 down to date en route to a potential 30, so to speak.

But those assessments (welcome as they are, I am assured) will soon become confidential in-house advice in another place, and as such, I will no longer be publishing on the day-to-day minutiae of Australian federal politics, despite the hawk-like attention I have always paid to these goings-on (and will continue to do), and the analyses of them that I have been happy to share with readers.

There is a silver lining: a bit of a “writing addict” since I was a kid, I tried (twice) in the last 18 months to launch a second column focused on life, love, happiness and health — just a conversation space for stuff that happens every day that’s worth remark, or a story to tell (often from inane and arcane origins), and a dedicated retro segment for times past — and this change of focus means I’ll probably redirect my limited spare time in that direction fairly soon. I hope readers of this column, who have enjoyed (or been infuriated by) my thoughts in this column, will give me a go in the other.

And I will be back within a few weeks — British elections aside — to provide a final wrap.

But today’s post is to signal a change that I think some may have already guessed: after 1,272 articles, six years, some unlikely forecasts that I’m proud to say were bang on the money and an awful lot of controversy in places nobody expected blunt analysis to penetrate, this column is winding down.

I will be leaving the column live, and at some point down the track, it may resume, but that’s a question for another time.

For now, I thank readers who have supported me for a long time, and ask that you stick around just a little longer: I’m not quite signing off, and before I do, there are still a few things we are going to cover.

Those who wish to can follow me on Twitter @theredandblue: that presence will continue, and I hope the many of you who don’t currently use Twitter will rethink your aversion. It is an excellent social media tool — once you get to know how to use it properly.

It’s also a way people can contact me if they wish to.

And any comments posted on this website — even after I cease regular posts — will still be seen and reviewed.

John Lennon — a great, if improbably anarchic, influence on my life — once opined that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans: seldom has a truer word been spoken.

But equally, sometimes life “happens” as a direct result of the plans you make to shape it, and it is this kind of change that informs my post today: in some respects, having published this column for six years, and received many thousands of comments (and made friends and professional associations from it) it’s a little traumatic to contemplate putting it in the deep freeze for a time, save for occasional outbursts on turf that is neutral in a partisan sense.

Yet I am moving in a predictable, if perhaps slightly unexpected, direction; and whilst this means an end to what was once a daily conversation that has become weekly under time constraints, it is a colossal step along the strategic path I mapped out from my hospital bed at the Alfred in April 2012.

So, there it is: should this change — well, change — I assure readers they will be the first to know; but in the final analysis, this is the early warning that we’re on borrowed time now, this time around at least.

I’ll be back later in the week, probably to talk about the UK. See you all then.

 

French Election: Macron “Landslide” Masks Growing Revolt

THE ELECTION of 39-year-old centrist neophyte Emmanuel Macron as President of France raises more problems than it will solve, and almost guarantees the continued growth in support for the far-Right Front National led by Marine Le Pen; Macron’s victory — whilst ostensibly convincing — portends ongoing instability whilst a reasonable slate of economic-based policies misses the point. A boilover, five years hence, is a virtual certainty.

About the nicest thing I can find to say of socialists who win elections in Western countries at the moment — or even, as in this case, those who call themselves “centrists” — is that their greatest impact is almost invariably to speed the election of their opponents, and to hasten the decline of their parties; today’s news is a little different, for France’s new President is yet to be tested on any meaningful level, and is yet to translate his support into a party structure at all, let alone kill it off on account of his actions.

But the news that “centrist” Emmanuel Macron has been elected overnight as President of France’s Fifth Republic is unremarkable, despite the 2:1 split of votes in his favour; newspaper reports crowing that Macron’s victory was the “second-largest win since 1965” ignore the fact that the largest was recorded by Jacques Chirac over the far-Right Front National’s Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002, and that yesterday’s triumph was over the same far-Right organisation, led by Le Pen’s daughter, which nevertheless doubled its support based on the 2002 result.

I’m not what one would ordinarily characterise as a supporter of the Front National, but quite literally — if forced to choose between Macron and Marine Le Pen — the latter would be preferable, even if a peg was required to secure my nose before making such a judgement.

First things first: readers may wish to peruse reports of the French election from other press sources here and here; I am also including a comment piece tonight from Robert Gottliebsen, for the itinerary of Macron policies it details are in fact a double-edged sword in terms of the new President’s likely impact — and his political fortunes henceforth.

But like Justin Trudeau in Canada — a barely reconstructed warrior of the illiberal Left who is, in any case, making a fine botch of his job — Macron arrives at the Élysée Palace with no appreciable political experience; briefly a minister under the outgoing Socialist regime, it is arguable the new President has fashioned himself as a “centrist” for no better reason than to run out on his old mates at the Socialist Party, and to distance himself from the wreckage of the presidency of Francois Holland for personal political advancement.

Even the lamentable Trudeau stands innocent of such a charge of political bastardry.

Macron will quickly find — especially if the centre-Right Les Républicains seize control of France’s National Assembly, as seems probable — that glib lines and a facile (if photogenic) media facade are poor armaments with which to fight the very real problems France faces as it marches toward the 20s: the high levels of immigration under the EU’s “freedom of movement” charter that, in turn, are fuelling social unrest and dislocation; resentment among the indigenous population toward France’s burgeoning Muslim population; the ongoing (and seemingly permanent) spectre of terrorist attacks; and growing hostility toward Brussels, as the anti-EU sentiment that led to Brexit in the UK gestates and develops across much of the continental mainland beyond Germany.

On one interpretation, scoring 65% of the vote in a two-candidate runoff is a landslide by any measure.

Yet the 35% scored by Le Pen, against a candidate untarnished by the scandals and controversy that dogged Chirac through much of his tenure, shows that not only has the Front National doubled its support in the 15 years since it last reached a runoff, but suggests its potential vote may even have been depressed by the resolute refusal of all other parties to endorse Le Pen against Macron — even those on the Right and/or of a similar anti-EU bent.

During the campaign, Le Pen suggested that France would be run by a woman irrespective of the election result: either herself, or German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It was a powerful line, and one that will resonate strongly in the years ahead should Macron falter, or fail to deliver as Hollande did, or if he is seen to be little more than the tail on Germany’s dog.*

The policies Macron has been elected upon — as detailed by Gottliebsen — are, in themselves, innocuous enough.

But the bulk of this program — tax cuts, strongly enforced borders, a smaller public service, reduced social security contributions (read: superannuation), and a raft of pro-business measures — would comfortably form the platform of a centre-Right government in most Western countries.

The problem is that most, if not all of it, is unlikely to ever be implemented: Macron’s old chums on the Left are likely to be disinclined to make a success of him, and his would-be mates on the Right (should they prevail in elections later this month for the National Assembly) are likely to want far stronger measures than Macron is prepared to offer.

One of the problems with standing as President in France without a political party (let alone one to hijack, as some claim Donald Trump did in the USA) is that if successful, one ends up with no power base at all: and if candidates from Macron’s En Marche! movement fail to make huge inroads, his presidency will be doomed before it even starts.

Such is the predicament of a 39-year-old kid with delusions of adequacy: the child President in difficult times, in a hostile and fast-evolving geopolitical landscape, is odds-on to deliver an absolute debacle.

Anyone who stands for office with failed socialist Barack Obama cheering from one corner, and unelectable megalomaniac Hillary Clinton cheering from the other, hardly constitutes an ideal candidate for anything.

But all of this aside, it is France’s social problems — not its economy, which Macron’s policies are squarely aimed at — that will form his greatest challenge, and his failure to offer more to address these speaks to an appalling naivety at best, or a culpable dereliction of responsibility at worst.

Echoes of the idiot-simple Obama creed of seeing the good in people, and focusing on the virtues of potential and achievement and striving for success, are simply not good enough in a country that at times has appeared primed to explode.

To the outside observer, France has become a powderkeg; unable to cope with the social stresses of integrating massive numbers of immigrants, and unable to resolve the dislocation and simmering tensions those who have already arrived have sparked, Macron’s is likely to simply be the latest in a procession of French administrations — from both the Left and the Right — that have, through reprehensible ineptitude on social policy, hastened the decline of France as a society, a state, and as a power.

Ongoing interference from the EU — especially if Britain is seen to exit the union on terms favourable to itself, and with minimal domestic fallout — can only spur the anti-EU sentiment that is already bubbling within the French population. If Merkel is seen to run France, as Le Pen suggests, the moderate undercurrent of demand for a “Frexit” will become a stampede.

All of this points to ongoing growth in the support the Front National is able to command: and in five years’ time Le Pen, who hasn’t been as badly beaten this week as a cursory inspection of the margin might suggest, will almost certainly stand again.

At that point, all bets would be off. If I were inclined to wager a tenner, though, I’d expect her to win: whilst we wish Macron well and hope he succeeds, the overwhelming likelihood is that he won’t.

If and when he doesn’t, France will turn Right. The question is how much damage the country will sustain in the five years before its next opportunity to elect its monarch.

 

*No implication that Merkel is a dog is intended. I am simply using the old “tail wagging the dog” analogy.

“Free Speech Award” For Gillian Triggs Is Obscene

WHENEVER the degree to which the Left has debased and shamed public discourse in Australia is in doubt, one need look no further for qualification than Human Rights bureaucrat Gillian Triggs; hot on the heels of lamenting her inability to control debate in private homes, Triggs is again basking in infamy, this time as the recipient of an award for her “fearless pursuit” of the right to free speech. The only such pursuit she has ever given is to kill it.

One one level, I’m amazed we’re even talking about this: the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs — a hyper-partisan socialist warrior who has arguably done more than any other public servant in recent Australian history to stymie free speech and distort public debate — has, incredibly, been feted with what ordinarily would be a prestigious award for “her courageous stand on people’s rights, especially free speech.”

But on another, public discourse in this country has been so shamed and debased by the insidious slither of the Left through its institutions — with the supposed conservatives currently holding office apparently unwilling and/or unable to stop it — that it ought to surprise nobody that not only is such an ideological menace able to freely embark on crusades against opponents at public expense, but that she should be lauded for it to boot.

The Australian is reporting that Liberty Victoria has gifted Triggs its Voltaire Award for “her fearless work in pursuit of people’s rights, and her courage and persistence under extraordinary pressure,” to which I can only remark that the courage of a pea-heart and the persistence enabled by a stipend of several hundred thousand dollars of misspent taxpayers’ money each year must place Triggs under great “pressure” indeed when it comes to spreading her abhorrent version of tolerance, fairness, and the advocacy of human rights.

This is the second time in a week we have spoken about free speech in this column; last week, of course, it was the tasteless and tactless antics of ABC darling Yassmin Abdel-Magied that occupied our attention, and I made the observation at the time that those in positions to influence such things ought to think long and hard about what kind of national “celebrities” they are creating.

I could just as easily make the same observation today.

Yet I also made reference in that article to Triggs, for early this year — in remarks that should strike fear into anyone flatly opposed to the notion of the Big State and its ability to regulate what its citizens think, and do, and say — the Human Rights Commission chief made headlines with a wailing complaint to decry the inability of the state to control the “free speech” that occurred around the kitchen table in ordinary family homes.

Almost as if on cue, here we are again: only this time, a prominent civil liberties body has chosen to fete Triggs for the very thing nobody with an IQ count in double figures would ever ascribe to her — being a fearless champion of entrenching and expanding the right to free speech in Australia.

This is a bureaucrat who has allowed the Human Rights Commission to be shanghaied for political advocacy purposes and used to prosecute partisan witch-hunts and sham inquisitions under S18c of the Racial Discrimination Act — often without basis or sufficient evidence to justify it — of which the notorious case against three QUT students, for the ostensible crime of disputing the exclusive allocation of university ICT resources to Aborigines, is but one example.

This is a bureaucrat who sat on a report into the detention of the children of asylum seekers during the Gillard and Rudd governments until after Labor lost an election, waited until more than 90% of those kids had been processed and released on the Coalition’s watch, and then tabled a politically biased report aimed squarely at damaging the Abbott government whilst making scant criticism of the role played by the ALP.

And whilst I am pressed for time this morning and must keep my remarks brief (for the list of examples I could cite is endless), the culture whereby “free speech” is enjoyed by anyone spouting the filthy babble of socialists and the broader Left, whilst anyone else must be slapped down, silenced and/or prosecuted “in the national interest,” is one that has been actively promoted by Professor Triggs and her QANGO with great enthusiasm and vigour. There is nothing laudable or worthwhile to be gained from such a vicious and divisive misappropriation of her brief.

The only pursuit of free speech Gillian Triggs has ever given is to aim to kill it: to advance precisely the warped, jaundiced and ideologically slanted culture that sadly infects almost every aspect of public debate and discourse in Australia. People might or might not have the right to be bigots — to paraphrase the poorly enunciated point of Attorney-General George Brandis — but they do have the right to be heard. Certainly, where hate or evil is propounded, it is entirely reasonable to shout it down.

But to control what people in a free country think and say in the first place, and then to progressively restrict and diminish the permissible subsets of beliefs that are allowed them, is a reprehensible abuse of power, and an abhorrence that no genuine proponent of free speech or human rights would ever dare to attempt.

That abuse, however, and that oft-attempted abhorrence, sit at the very heart of Professor Triggs’ activities at the Human Rights Commission. When her term shortly expires, no reasonable person will lament her departure.

The Liberty Victoria award to Professor Triggs is obscene; its Voltaire Award is looking considerably tarnished.

Far from lauding Triggs where the right to free speech is concerned, the only fitting rewards for her efforts are sneering contempt and ridicule — and the summary erasure, by any successor at the Human Rights Commission, of any lingering evidence of her tenure.

 

 

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, ANZAC Day, The ABC: Get Some Perspective

IN THE brouhaha over a token ABC “celebrity” indulging her proven immaturity and lack of any sense of occasion by posting disrespectful left-wing propaganda on Facebook, one point is clear; this is no question of free speech, much less one of Ms Abdel-Magied’s religious views — this time — but of the ABC’s role as a taxpayer-funded national broadcaster, and what it tolerates in terms of content, balance, and the behaviour of some of its staff.

Some years ago, as the Abbott government contemplated, then shied away from, sorely needed reform of section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, Attorney-General George Brandis waded into the debate with the inadvisable and cringeworthy observation that “people are entitled to be bigots;” widely slated for this crass (and politically damaging) utterance, Brandis was pilloried across the country, branded — among other things — as “a bigot” himself; I’ve known George for decades, and whilst I haven’t seen him for a while, he never changes. The last thing anyone who knows him would call him is “a bigot.”

Yet Brandis, in the literal sense, was correct; it is not the role of government to legislate thought, and nor should it be the role of government to legislate speech; people must have the right to think and say whatever they like: but the reciprocal obligation is upon the rest of us, whenever and wherever the nutcases show themselves, to shout them down and show their words for the offence to reality they are.

And small point as it might be to note, Brandis wasn’t actually encouraging people to be bigots. Quite the contrary.

At the time, the voices who shout loudest in this country (which emanate almost exclusively from the Left, amplified by such fine institutions as the Fairfax press and the ABC) pronounced with all the finger-shaking pomposity they could muster that not only was Brandis Public Enemy #1, but that his “honesty” amounted to an unrebuttable case as to why S18c should be strengthened, not watered down or (God forbid!) abolished altogether (as it should be).

Fast forward to early this year, and that waste of taxpayer cash, Gillian Triggs, found her way into the public discourse with a diatribe lamenting that it was regrettable that the state was unable to control the “free speech” that occurred around the kitchen tables of family homes around Australia: and if this didn’t frighten the hell out of ordinary good folk, whose only real crime is to have an opinion, then I don’t know what would.

I begin my remarks this morning thus because as a fervent champion of free speech — genuinely free speech — I have watched over the past few years, with increasing dismay, as this issue (which ought to be something Australia as a country is renowned the world over for as a strong, free country) has become little more than a political football and a slogan to be kicked around and used to hurt opponents politically.

And with ANZAC Day having been and gone again for another year, this year’s festivities have been marred by an ugly public spat over a despicable post in social media by someone who should have known better, employed by people who ought to have provided the guidance to stop her.

By now, most people will have heard of the fracas over Muslim ABC identity Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s foolhardy words on Facebook; those who haven’t can check out this article from The Australian (and I am using this, rather than any of the other reports available, as I wanted to include the opinion offered by Graham Richardson on the issue).

“Lest we forget (Nauru, Manus, Syria, Palestine),” she wrote. This reference to the hard-Left agenda of ending offshore detention, withdrawing from the Middle East and its obsession with sticking fingers (or worse) into the eyes of Israel is too blatant to claim as a coincidence, and too tastelessly timed to be anything other than a jab at another object of left-wing hatred: ANZAC Day.

Predictably, the voices of the Right roared. It was obscene, un-Australian, treacherous, disrespectful, blasphemous, an insult to the men and women who fought and died for Australia’s freedom.

It was indeed all of those things.

But the voices of the Left returned fire, claiming that calls for Ms Abdel-Magied to be sacked by the ABC proved that once and for all, the great conservative cause of free speech was nothing but a hoax; here they were, trying to shut down “free speech” from someone on the Left. How dare they! After all, Abdel-Magied was entitled to offer an opinion, wasn’t she? Or was this just because Abdel-Magied is a Muslim, and conservatives are “bigots?”

Yet again, the football that is free speech gets kicked around — and the central point (or in this case, problem) is missed.

This column believes Ms Abdel-Magied should be free to think whatever she likes, turgid and contemptible as some of those sentiments are: and courtesy of her status as one of the ABC’s tokenistic fabricated “celebrities” — who, to be blunt, would be of little interest to anyone, the ABC included, were it not for the fact she hails from a minority community — we are learning more and more about the thoughts of this lamentable excuse for a TV personality.

Such as the ridiculous notion that Islam is “the most feminist religion” in the world, when irrefutable evidence of the savagery and barbarism of fundamentalist Islamic regimes towards women in many parts of the world tells a very different story.

Or the equally fatuous suggestion that Sharia Law is purely concerned with “mercy and kindness,” and that the law of sovereign nations always takes precedence over it — when again, there is ample evidence over many years and from many countries that nothing could be further from the truth.

I think Ms Abdel-Magied is shrewd; she’s been appointed to government taskforces on multiculturalism and domestic violence; she was sent on a tour of Muslim countries by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to “promote Australia;” she was appointed to the board of the Queensland Museum; and she’s been packaged up as a “media identity” by the ABC (possibly as the ABC’s answer to Waleed Aly on The Project, about whom my objection has nothing to do with the fact he’s a Muslim and everything to do with the fact he’s a socialist idiot whose views I vehemently disagree with).

Even in an era where political, social and cultural institutions are dominated by the Left in this country, it still takes a degree of guile to extract and compile that kind of CV — much of it with salary cheques attached to it — especially for a 26-year-old, no less, and it is obvious that guile is not a commodity in which Abdel-Magied is lacking.

But I don’t think her views are in any way representative of the silent majority of Australians; and I think elements of those views are so insidious that it behoves anyone dishing out what can only be described as CV-building items to think long and hard about what kind of national “celebrities” they are creating.

Herein lies the nub of the matter: the culpability of the ABC.

“Their ABC.” The ABC of the finger-shaking Chardonnay drunks of the self-styled “elites” of the Left who would have a clear world view if they could only extract their heads from their rectums.

Too much of what the ABC puts to air — especially where politics and current affairs are concerned, and especially wherever any kind of panel or discussion is involved — is unapologetically misused as a forum to advance the causes of the political Left; whether it’s to omit key details from its coverage (like failing to identify Islamic terrorist acts as being committed by Muslims) or to stack the loathsome #QandA panel every week with a majority of leftist and radical socialist identities, the only time the ABC feigns any pretence of impartiality is when anyone tries to hold it to account.

My point is that for all the (justified) uproar over what Ms Abdel-Magied had to say on Facebook, the ruckus isn’t a question of free speech: Abdel-Magied was free to post what she did, and the rest of us were free to slap it down as the odious rubbish it was. The fact she took the post down (and apologised) is a clue that someone belatedly got through to her that there are some things you just don’t do.

But organisations like the ABC, which are responsible for providing people like Abdel-Magied a national platform from which to disseminate fringe opinions, also bear some responsibility for what their media creations subsequently say or do: if Yassmin Abdel-Magied was just a nameless resident of Brisbane — irrespective of her religious convictions — who posted something like she did on ANZAC Day, it’s doubtful anyone would have noticed, let alone cause the fuss we’ve seen over the past two days.

No big media profile, no public interest in social media profiles. One follows the other. The ABC made her a “star.” Its curt dismissal of her post, or the callous claim that deleting it was “acceptable,” simply isn’t good enough.

If you create the monster, you own its handiwork. The ABC can’t have it both ways.

Nobody doubts Ms Abdel-Magied’s ability; and nobody could criticise the daughter of migrants trying to carve out a niche for herself. It is her judgement that is in question.

Whilst she should be free to think (and indeed, say) whatever she likes, trying to misappropriate the national spotlight for herself on what is tantamount to a sacred day in Australia, with opinions that are offensive drivel to most Australians, is not the way to go about it.

Through her public utterances on #QandA and this week through her deleted Facebook post, whatever else you might think of her, Ms Abdel-Magied has exhibited a distinct lack of maturity: and if she can’t or won’t behave like a grown-up, then those who dish out the dough — like her employers at “Their ABC” — ought to think twice about providing her with taxpayer-funded junkets and/or platforms to spruik her wares.

Where the ABC is concerned, the notion of being “independent” is too easily distorted into an excuse to propagate blatantly biased left-wing propaganda, using carefully selected messengers (such as Ms Abdel-Magied) to enable dissent to be portrayed as a racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic (insert your favourite lefty taunt here) attack on nice people with “valid insights.”

Sorry Aunty. You created her and if you can’t control her, piss her off. The rest of us don’t need to be lectured, and especially not by a kid who apparently doesn’t even value the traditions of the country that has given her a better life than her homeland ever would have.

 

 

UK Election: Tory Landslide All But Certain On 8 June

A SURPRISE General Election in Britain is certain to gift victory to Theresa May’s Conservative Party, and will as reliably hand Labour its worst loss since 1935; whilst strengthening May’s hand in negotiations over the UK’s exit from the EU has been given as an ostensible pretext, this election is about poleaxing an opposition led by an irrelevant radical socialist and extending the Tories’ hold on office. On both counts, it will succeed convincingly.

It’s an unexpected post from me this morning, as I try to juggle other commitments and obligations with the desire to maintain a regular flow of comment through this column, but if anything could shake a spare hour free to publish something, my favourite political hobby-horse — electoral politics in the United Kingdom — is just the thing to do it.

By now many readers will know that over the past 36 hours, an extraordinary political heist has been engineered by British PM Theresa May; after nine months in office marked by incessant refusals to call an election, and guarantees that the House of Commons would run its full term until 2020, Mrs May has — against a backdrop of 20-point leads over Labour across most reputable opinion polls, and in the face of pleas from her MPs to capitalise on the apparently sunny electoral weather the Tories currently enjoy — called an election for 8 June after a seven-week campaign.

I have held off posting for an extra day pending the result of a vote in the House of Commons, which was needed to set aside the Fixed Terms Act insisted upon by the Liberal Democrats as part of their price for installing the Tories (then led by David Cameron) in office after the inconclusive election of 2010; that ballot was carried overnight in the Commons by a 522-13 margin, removing the only hurdle Mrs May faced in calling a snap election.

Remarkably, the opposition Labour Party — facing annihilation under the pointless leadership of widely disliked radical socialist Jeremy Corbyn — voted for the motion, and frankly, there is something abjectly pathetic about the sight of lemmings lining up to leap gleefully over a cliff. More on Corbyn and Labour shortly.

But first things first: for fellow junkies of British politics, the Telegraph is publishing some excellent rolling coverage that can be accessed here; a small selection of other content can be accessed here and here — we recommend The Spectator as the best boutique source of coverage during the campaign — whilst an excellent consolidated psephological resource I’ve grown well acquainted with over the years, operated by YouGov’s Anthony Wells, is a handy reference point and can be found here, but of course there is plenty of other good material in the market (or keep an eye on my Twitter feed to see who I’m following and what I’m reading from the UK @theredandblue).

I’ve struggled a bit to think of the last time an incumbent government looked as unassailably certain to smash its opponent into a thousand little pieces as Mrs May’s does.

Margaret Thatcher’s landslide in 1983 comes to mind, as does the re-election of Ronald Reagan in 1984; closer to home, it’s hard to ascribe the same upfront inevitability to John Howard’s 2001 and 2004 triumphs, for the Coalition spent much of 2001 looking like losing, and started the 2004 campaign trailing in the polls. State governments led by Labor in Queensland in 2001 and  Victoria in 2002, and by the Liberal Party in Western Australia in 2013, are perhaps nearer the mark.

But the Conservative Party begins this election campaign, on average, nearly 20 percentage points ahead of Labour once the various individual polls are examined and aggregated; in Britain’s first past the post election system, this lead — rounded to 43 to 26 — suggests a thumping Tory victory if replicated on 8 June, and it should be observed that 43 to 26 amounts to a better position than that recorded by Mrs Thatcher in 1983, which resulted in a 144-seat majority and almost 400 seats (397 in fact) in the 650-seat Commons.

Where the polls are concerned, the Tory position ranges from 38% in yesterday’s Opinium survey (which almost identically replicates the actual result of the 2015 election) to 46% from ICM and ComRes. The Opinium poll yesterday is the only survey tabulated in the past ten weeks by any of Britain’s five major polling houses to find Conservative support below 40%, and it will be a sobering fact for anyone looking for a Labour victory to know that at every election since (and including) 1992, opinion polls have consistently overstated eventual support for Labour whilst understating the Tory vote.

So far in 2017, just five of the 36 published opinion polls on Westminster voting intention have found support for the Conservative Party below 40%, and none have found the Tory vote at levels at or below the 37% that delivered a slim majority two years ago. By contrast, just four of those 36 surveys recorded Labour travelling better than the 29% it recorded in 2015, and of those, three found the improvement to be a solitary percentage point.

In other words, Labour is set for the belting of its life: worse than 1983, and worse than anything it suffered in the 1950s; I’m looking at the Tory win of 1935 (which saw Labour emerge with 154 seats in a 615-seat House of Commons) as the benchmark for expectations, although  the 1931 election, which was even better for the Conservatives (470 seats), looks a bit silly in terms of a precedent this time. I do, however, think the Tories stand an excellent chance of recording a 400+ seat haul on 8 June.

The pretext offered by Mrs May to justify the election — that a stronger and renewed mandate would in turn strengthen Britain’s hand at upcoming negotiations over the UK’s pending exit from the European Union — is easy enough to accept, but only on the surface; the truth (as her opponents noted yesterday) is that even with their present slender majority, the Conservatives have faced no parliamentary refusal to trigger the “Brexit process,” and that EU bureaucrats are likely to be just as hostile toward the British position irrespective of whether Mrs May holds office with a majority of 15 or 150.

The real reasons for this election are more base, and not particularly difficult to divine.

Cameron must have been unable to believe his luck two years ago, when the defeated Labour Party chose as its leader a radical socialist of the far Left whose 32-year parliamentary career had thitherto been entirely spent on the backbench; the Tories must have been even more disbelieving when the new opposition leader chose, as his shadow Chancellor (the equivalent of a shadow Treasurer in Australia) another arch-Leftist with decades of experience in the political wilderness, John McDonnell. Both men are, among other things, apologists for the IRA, with little discernible connection or relevance to mainstream British society or to the majority of the people living in it.

One abortive attempt to get rid of Corbyn last year by rebellious Labour MPs had the unintended consequence of strengthening his position; another attempt has been rumoured ever since. The temptation to lock Corbyn in place with an election date has clearly proven irresistible to Mrs May and her strategists, who — unlike their Coalition counterparts in Australia last year, where Bill Shorten was concerned — will now “do” Corbyn properly in such a fashion as to kill him off as a political force altogether.

Even on this point, Labour is proving to be the gift that keeps giving; faced with a slaughter, Corbyn has made it known he plans to remain leader after the looming massacre on 8 June. That event can only be exacerbated by what is already becoming a stream of Labour MPs, flatly opposed to Corbyn’s leadership and disgusted by the direction in which he has taken their party, who are refusing to stand again in their seats — and offering free, vicious and very public character assessments of their leader on the way out the door.

May, like Cameron before her, has been the beneficiary of an economy that has proven surprisingly robust; for much of the past five years the British economy has been the fastest growing in Europe, and at one point was the fastest growing of all OECD nations (including Australia). Predictions of a sharp downturn in the aftermath of last year’s successful referendum to leave the EU have consistently failed to eventuate, although with a growing number of economists forecasting a downturn in the next 18 months (which, to be fair, would affect the rest of Europe as well), going to the polls now rather than in three years’ time makes sense: especially when there are other factors, such as the EU negotiations, which can be used to provide the veneer of legitimacy for doing so.

With the Scottish Nationalist Party’s stranglehold on Scottish seats showing little sign of being broken (apart from an outside chance of Tories picking up an extra couple of seats north of the border), Labour’s scope to make gains at all is severely limited; in a region that traditionally provided a bedrock for British Labour, it currently polls just 10% in Scotland: a situation once unthinkable.

Elsewhere, the Conservatives’ grip on the country appears so unshakeable that I’ve seen credible modelling to suggest the Tories may be on track to win a string of seats in coal mining areas in northern Wales — an outcome, if it eventuates, that was once as unthinkable as Labour being wiped out of Scotland — and if they can take seats from Labour in the Midlands and major centres outside London (Birmingham, Manchester, even Sheffield), the Tories’ victory on 8 June will be a massive one indeed.

The one potential cloud on the horizon in terms of the scale of their win — some unforeseen, colossally destructive (albeit unlikely) campaign gaffe notwithstanding — lies in the dozens of seats the Conservatives won from the Liberal Democrats in 2015; many of these sit on razor-thin margins, and a lot of them were harvested from regions (Devon, Cornwall, Somerset) that long remained good for the Lib-Dems (and the Liberals before them) when the rest of the country abandoned them. Should the Lib-Dems win a solid number of these seats back, it will obviously dull the magnitude of the Tory triumph: not enough to stop it, but perhaps just enough to deny Mrs May the invincibility enjoyed by Mrs Thatcher after 1983.

With seven weeks to go, I will aim to include comment on the British election as we go: as well as keeping an eye on what’s happening here in Australia, and on that score, I should be back within the next day or so.

But if ever there was a case of the planets aligning perfectly for a jaunty field trip to face the voters, Britain’s Conservative Party enjoys exactly that: and whilst it’s never over until the votes are counted, a huge win for Mrs May and the Tories — mirrored by defeat and humiliation for Labour — are in no way in any doubt.

If anyone wants to take a shot at me for making such an unqualified and unilateral prediction, just hold off until 9 June. I’m sure, on that day, you might have second thoughts about doing so.

 

At 53-47 To Labor, Newspoll Very Near The Mark

ANOTHER abysmal Newspoll — with the ALP ahead of the Coalition, this time by an increased 53% to 47% margin — is probably an accurate reflection of the public mood, and carries messages for both sides of Australian politics: people have turned off PM Malcolm Turnbull altogether, whilst Labor remains lumbered with an unelectable and boorish oaf at its helm. Meanwhile, minor parties continue to prosper, which favours the ALP, if only by default.

10 down, 20 to go…

Apologies to readers for the rather abrupt (and unintended) hiatus over the past fortnight; the “something” that I alluded to that popped up last time we discussed a Newspoll has in fact consumed a goodly portion of my time since that point, but with a solution now in hand with which to deal with it, here we are again (although there is something else that will interrupt me during the coming couple of weeks, albeit not quite so thoroughly as this has done).

In any case — as I forecast — the headline comment today, in light of the latest Newspoll published in The Australian, is that Malcolm Turnbull is now fully one-third the way toward replicating the benchmark he used to justify knifing predecessor Tony Abbott through the shoulder blades. Not for the first time, it warrants the observation that only a foolish politician indeed makes public pronouncements on the longevity of political leadership through the prism of opinion polls, and Turnbull only has himself to blame if the sound of sharpening scabbards can be heard emanating from some quarters within his party.

And as I suspected, this poll has shown the last one was, indeed, a rogue result; today’s 53-47 finding in Labor’s favour doesn’t fully restore the ALP’s 55-45 lead from a month ago, but it does move the political conversation back in that direction: and it does broadly cross-validate a finding recorded in the ALP’s favour during the week by Essential Research, which itself saw Labor give up a point to arrive at a 54-46 assessment.

To say the average of these two polls — a 53.5-46.5 lead to Labor, or a swing of 3.9% since the election last July — is pretty much on the money illustrates just how far from favour the Coalition has fallen in less than four years; these findings amount to a 7% swing to Labor after preferences since the thumping win posted by Tony Abbott in September 2013, and would net the ALP an extra 19 seats (for a total of 88) and government in a canter based on the July results if replicated at another election.

What should deeply disturb Coalition “strategists” is the fact that using the Turnbull camp’s yardstick of progress as a benchmark, the past fortnight has been an unmitigated triumph for the Prime Minister, with a reasonable slice of his corporate tax cuts being legislated, along with piecemeal changes to the way the Human Rights Commission is to process complaints made under S18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, and in the afterglow of his warmly received plan to expand the Snowy Mountains Scheme as a downpayment on tackling energy affordability.

A more objective assessment of the period would also note that despite scoring sporadic hits on opposition “leader” Bill Shorten, the government has been seen to lose the debate (for want of a better word) on changes to penalty rates; has proven singularly incapable of enacting structural (and sorely needed) changes to S18c; has had its company tax plan gutted, despite the partial success it booked; and is showing every sign of once again approaching a critical federal budget in five weeks’ time with no tilling of the public soils being undertaken in preparation, and no over-arching theme or narrative to bind its economic message together.

In other words, this Newspoll — like the nine before it — is something the Prime Minister’s Office can scarcely argue comes as much of a shock.

As is so often the case with these polls, today’s Newspoll charts incremental movements: on the question of a primary vote the Coalition is down a point, and the ALP up a point, to sit level-pegging at 36%.

On the question of who the “preferred PM” might be, Turnbull is down two points to 41%, and Shorten up three to 32%: thus maintaining for now the clear but not decisive lead that seems the only “bright” spot in survey findings for Malcolm — such as it is.

And where voter satisfaction with personal performance is concerned, Turnbull’s 30% figure is unchanged this time, but 59% (+2%) disapprove; by contrast — and reflecting the rather damning indictment upon Turnbull that Bill Shorten should be more popular than any other figure in Australian politics — 32% (+3%) approve of the way he is doing his job, whilst 54% (-3%) do not.

There are those (usually associated with the incumbent party and/or leader, whoever it happens to be at any given time) who argue that such modest movements are within the margin of sampling error, and that they are statistically insignificant.

Yet as we have said many times now, the trend against Turnbull — ever since Federal Police raided the home of former minister Mal Brough, after he was unwisely and rashly restored to Cabinet for supporting Malcolm in the leadership ballot against Abbott — has been so large in overall scope, and almost uninterrupted in its duration over the past 16 months, that statistical insignificance went out the window well over a year ago.

The messages from this poll — like most others doing the rounds — are fairly simple, and very clear.

One, it doesn’t really matter what Malcolm Turnbull does: rightly or wrongly, “fairly” or otherwise, the vast majority of Australians don’t like him, are fed up with him, and have stopped listening to what he says and does altogether: it’s a dangerous piece of political real estate to occupy, and the fact a few genuinely praiseworthy achievements haven’t mattered one jot in public opinion sampling is a potent signpost to the fact Turnbull is (as we have said in this column repeatedly) finished.

Two, whilst these results might appear encouraging for Labor, the hard reality is that people hate its “leader” almost as heartily as they’re sick to the stomach with Turnbull: and a change in the ALP leadership (and especially to a Plibersek/Bowen team as leader and deputy) might just be all it takes to lock Labor’s two-party lead in for at least long enough to turn a likely election victory into a certainty.

Three (and this is an old story), until the Coalition finally recruits some smarts in the areas of political strategy and tactics, mass communication and parliamentary management — and backs them with a slate of sober, mainstream conservative policies, not the lefty social whims of its leader and/or panicked pandering to the ruthlessly advancing monster that is the Left — it won’t even matter if the Liberal Party tosses Malcolm overboard. It won’t matter who the replacement is. It won’t matter how long there is until an election, and it won’t matter how “brilliant” the latest mediocre exercise in pea and thimble tricks federal budget is purported to be. Right now, opposition beckons the Coalition almost irresistibly. Like an adolescent determined to be entrusted with a dirty secret at all costs, the Coalition gives every appearance of being willingly drawn further and further toward the cliff.

And just to put the tin hat on it all, the share of the vote identified by Newspoll as belonging to minor parties and “Others” continues to hover near 30%, and whilst some Turnbull figures (who shall remain nameless) like to suggest privately that these are “parked” Coalition votes that will “come home” at election time, most of them didn’t last July — and even more of them won’t next time either, at an election that is now at most less than two years away from being called.

I’d never vote for a party led by a pinko like Tanya Plibersek, and I think Chris Bowen is a charlatan and an intellectual fraud who’d have very little to say if someone didn’t script his lines for him and wind up his power pack every morning so he could deliver them.

But out in Voterland, where people don’t think twice about politics and where visual impressions increasingly count for more nowadays than anything requiring serious thought anyway, this ticket, properly handled, could yield the ALP great electoral dividends, and anyone who thinks Labor lacks the capacity to capitalise on such a vapid but electorally potent ticket should reflect upon how close Bill Shorten went toward becoming Prime Minister nine months ago…and he’s a lying, fork-tongued soothsayer whose past handiwork as a union hack and ministerial saboteur mark him out as someone to be avoided at literally any cost.

I know I sound like a broken record when I say, not for the first time, that this poll screams at the Liberals to knuckle under and get their shit together: if Labor moves on Shorten first, it’ll all be over. It’ll be too late. Perhaps it already is.

And in two weeks’ time, provided Newspoll isn’t delayed, it’ll be a case of “11 down, 19 to go.” Bet tens on it. Malcolm will never win another election. He almost lost the last one. The time to fix things is now. The need is becoming more urgent with every day that passes.

The alternative is Tanya Plibersek as Prime Minister, and for all his faults, that’ll make Malcolm and his social ideas look, improbably enough, positively saintly. But by then of course, it really will be too late for the Liberals to do anything more than count the cost of doing nothing now.

 

Newspoll’s 52-48 ALP Lead: Rogue Poll Or Reality?

DESPITE THE FACT only a sycophant would believe the “improvement” scored by the Coalition in yesterday’s Newspoll, some interesting questions arise from a survey showing the government gaining three points on Labor in three weeks at a time some interesting things have been happening. Do voters approve of Turnbull’s plan to expand the Snowy River scheme? Is Bill Shorten finally cooked? Or is this poll — as I suspect it is — a rogue result?

Nine down, 21 to go…

Whatever else anyone might say about the latest Newspoll — carried in The Australian yesterday — the indisputable fact is that not only does it find Malcolm Turnbull 30% the way toward racking up the “30 losing Newspolls” he used to justify a move on predecessor Tony Abbott, but it also shows the government remaining on course to lose an election fairly clearly were one to be held today.

Needless to say, of course, the imminent orgy of propaganda from Malcolm’s people won’t present it quite so starkly.

But yesterday’s Newspoll (and I apologise for the delay: something popped up that diverted my attention elsewhere when I started writing this piece) might simultaneously be both a rogue result and a genuine finding; I will explain what I mean.

First, the increase in the Coalition primary vote (from 34% to 37%) and the corresponding decline in that for the ALP (from 37% to 35%) is in itself unremarkable; in the past 25 years the ALP has only three times outpolled the Coalition on primary votes at an election (in 1993, 1998 and 2007) and has, unless overall opinion sampling indicated a Labor landslide of epic proportions, generally trailed the Coalition ever since the entrenchment of the Greens as a third force over the past 15-20 years.

And on the surface of it, a three-point lift in the Coalition’s two-party vote — reducing the ALP’s lead to (a still election-winning) 52-48 — would seem quite commensurate with that primary vote lift.

But the poll was taken after the government received a battering from the ALP over penalty rates, and appeared clueless as to how to respond; most of the fortnight was also punctuated by leaks from Scott Morrison’s upcoming budget — and most of what has oozed out (such as changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax arrangements on property investments) — are, unwisely, apparent moves to play on Labor’s turf: probably a recipe for more trouble.

In this sense, improvements in Malcolm Turnbull’s standing as “preferred Prime Minister” (from 40% to 43%) and in his personal approve/disapprove numbers (from 29/59 to 30/57) are — aside from being largely within the poll’s margin of error — made to look a little too conveniently positive for my liking by corresponding drops in Bill Shorten’s “preferred PM” number (from 33% to 29%) and his own approve/disapprove ratings (from 30.56 to 29/57).

Just to make it interesting, The Australian‘s comment that this survey represents the fourth straight Newspoll in which Shorten’s leadership approval has gone backwards is a trend that is difficult to dismiss — even if there is a rogue element to some of the other findings.

And to put the cherry on top of the cake, plotting to remove Turnbull from his post by forces aligned with former PM Tony Abbott — which was all but being conducted in the pages of a number of mainstream media publications a fortnight ago — has strangely fallen silent.

There are things in flux on both sides of the political divide at present, and both may be factors at play in the phenomenon I am describing.

On the Labor side, I have long believed that having conducted himself appallingly for three years and failed to win an election on the back of lies, half-truths, exaggerated promises and half-baked slogans, Bill Shorten’s one and only shot at winning an election as Labor “leader” has been and gone; it does not matter how close the ALP got to victory, and it does not matter how few seats (or how small a swing) it needs next time: taking the debased route of “Politics by Bullshit” either works first go or it kills off the practitioner.

Readers have heard me say in the past that a change in the ALP leadership should be interpreted as a sign that Labor is not only serious about reclaiming office, but that it seriously believes it can do so: jettisoning the imbecilic Shorten would remove a very large amount of lead from its saddlebags.

Should Shorten be left where he is, however, the converse is true.

And this might well prove the case, if Turnbull and his acolytes finally and belatedly prove able to get their shit together.

On the Coalition side, I headlined my Newspoll piece last time as a “call to arms” for the Liberals: it seems they are responding.

Malcolm’s plan to expand the Snowy River scheme — at a time of increasing electricity prices and collapsing supply reliability, as the scourge of unviable renewables begins to make its inevitable consequences felt — was and is a great idea, but in the context of this poll, it is hard to ascribe the bounce the Coalition has received to this initiative alone — and not least when everything else continued to go badly for Turnbull, as it almost always has ever since he stole the Liberal leadership from Abbott in a lightning coup in 2015.

Hence my thought that the result is rogue: it makes no sense whatsoever when judged against the three-week period it contrived to measure.

(And we haven’t even touched on the Liberal Party wipeout at the WA state election, which also happened during that period).

But in the past couple of days — after the results were published — there are tentative signs of life emanating from the government.

A more concerted attempt to defend the Productivity Commission ruling on penalty rates is underway; Turnbull and his troops have caught Shorten on the hop in Parliament this week (as opposed to the vapid and frankly pathetic drubbing they received last time it sat) and — rarely, but encouragingly, where the Coalition is concerned — decent memes have begun appearing in social media, highlighting the difference between penalty rates that will apply on Sundays under the Productivity Commission ruling, and those that apply under deals struck by Shorten as a union leader that sold out the pay rates of the workers he claimed to protect (the rates in the Shorten deals are almost always the lower of the two).

Turnbull is taking changes to section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act to the Coalition joint party room this morning for final approval; they fall short of the complete repeal of the section, which would be the desirable result, but they nevertheless constitute an improvement on the existing regime.

Simultaneously, Turnbull is announcing a review of the Human Rights Commission, and specifically, the guidelines with which it will handle future complaints under a revamped 18c.

There are moves afoot to hold a plebiscite on the question of gay marriage — in line with the policy that received a mandate at last year’s election — by using a postal ballot (that doesn’t require legislation) to get around the opportunistic and cynical opposition the measure originally foundered against in the Senate.

So whilst it is too early to tell, we may be in the situation that whilst the Newspoll itself was rogue, the improvement in the Coalition’s stocks becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: hence the paradox to which I alluded near the top of today’s piece.

But one swallow does not make a Spring; much will have to go right from here for Turnbull to enact any serious or meaningful recovery: one slip could be all it takes to cast him, and the government, right back to the bottom of the well — and if this occurs, Turnbull’s conservative colleagues are less likely to be forgiving in future.

Or patient.

There is a huge test looming in the form of Scott Morrison’s post-election budget that can arguably make or break Turnbull, Morrison, and the government overall: and just to underline the point, Turnbull was widely regarded as a terminal commodity just a few weeks ago. Certainly, I thought he had passed the point of political no return. Perhaps he had, and perhaps it really is too late. But for the only time in 18 months, the government looks the goods right now.

In a fortnight’s time we will know whether the bounce was genuine, or one best characterised by a dead cat. Either way, the odds of “10 down, 20 to go” sitting atop the next instalment of the Newspoll story must — in good common sense — remain at very short odds indeed.

Time will tell. It always does…