Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Abbott

The victory of Cameron’s Conservatives in Britain was surprising and a challenge to opinion pollsters. One recent analysis of the post-election British Election Survey has these findings on the Conservative victory:


Polls had almost without exception shown that 2010 Lib Dems voters that had switched to one of the two larger parties had overwhelmingly opted for Labour. However, the analysis suggests a different picture – Lib Dem to Labour switchers did outnumber Lib Dem to Conservative switchers, but only narrowly

Polls had also suggested that the direct flows between Labour and the Conservatives were very small and essentially cancelled each other out. There was in fact a very small net flow of 2010 Labour voters to the Tories.

These errors were reflected elsewhere in polls besides voting intention. 2015 Tory voters appear to be much more socially liberal – with more progressive views on gender and racial equality – than was previously thought.

The new BES data also suggests that the Tories had both a larger vote share and a larger lead among women than among men.

These numbers support the theory that Conservative modernisation helped – not hurt – the Tory performance in 2015 Continue reading

Can the Greens win Grayndler in 2016?

According to the media Anthony Albanese will follow his Marrickville home base from the electorate of Grayndler to Barton. The boundaries of the electorates have been changed and Marrickville is now in Barton. Grayndler now includes Balmain which is currently in the electorate of Sydney held by Tanya Plibersek. At the 2013 election Labor easily retained Grayndler with a primary vote of 47.2% and the Greens with 23% were in third place behind the Liberals. This was in seat which according to ABC Vote Compass was the most left-wing in Australia. How much of Labor’s strong performance in Grayndler was due to Anthony Albanese? Is it true that as one media report claims: ‘The move, however, risks the seat of Grayndler falling into the hands of the Greens at the next election, with Mr Albanese’s personal popularity said to be the only factor that has kept it Labor’ ?  In my chapter for Abbott’s Gambit I developed a simple linear regression model to predict party votes by electorate according to the social composition of the electorate. This is ‘back of the envelope’ procedure but it does give us some idea which electorates are distinctive in their behaviour and of the existence of regional effects. Continue reading

Abbott & Hockey as neoliberals

Considering Joe Hockey’s farewell to parliamentary politics. How are we to explain the close alliance between him and Tony Abbott? Hockey after all was Turnbull lite in the eyes of the media with a charmingly multicultural background. Hockey supported the Republic against Abbott and continues to provide tepid support for this cause. My view is that both Abbott and Hockey were conservatives, it is true that their respective economic and cultural enthusiasm reflected different aspects of the conservative cause, but all ideologies are coalitions. This is not the way that many observers understand the Liberal Party. The favoured model is a division between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’. Liberalism is seen as being about individual freedom (J S Mill), conservatism about tradition and authority (Edmund Burke). From this perspective Hockey and Abbott are unnatural allies. Neoliberalism is seen as being about ‘freedom’.


In this perspective Tony Abbott is seen as ultimately not a friend of neoliberalism, he is seen as one who draws his political inspiration from traditions allegedly hostile to the market. Continue reading

Shorten, historicism & Whiggery

I have just published a review of David Marr’s Faction Man in The Conversation. I write these opinion articles very quickly which is a good discipline for academics. So some supplementary comments on my background thinking. I discuss how Shorten is an untroubled Labor loyalist unlike many intellectuals to whom political allegiance is a matter of inner debate. I referred to Shorten drawing on history to conform his political faith and I argued that history is not on the side of the left. My inspiration here was the Althusserian critique of historicism Continue reading

Regional variations & personal votes at the 2010 Victorian election

With the Victorian election almost upon us there are many guides to individual seats available. To add to these I have developed a simple regression model to predict the 2010 Labor primary and two-party preferred votes and the 2010 Green vote in each electorate from the social composition of the electorate as revealed by the 2011 census. As this is a ‘back of the envelope’ exercise I have kept it simple. The dependent variables are the portion of the electorates’ population that do not speak English at home and the portion not employed in professional-managerial occupations. I have also included a dummy variable for ‘agricultural electorates’; defined as those in which more than 5% of the workforce is employed in agriculture, forestry or fishing. This model sheds light on the distinctive features of individual regions and possible personal votes. The final results and residuals are available here.

The results are: Continue reading

Corruption & machine politics

I have an article in the Conversation about the trade union and home insulation Royal Commissions held by the government. The article doesn’t imply any judgement about the significance of the matters that they investigate. Actually I think that trade union political funds (I refuse to use the meaningless term ‘slush funds’) are a notable own goal by the union movement. The use of funds raised from members in support of political campaigns in other unions is entirely inappropriate and funds raised by employer donations place in serious doubt the independence of union leaderships.


‘Corruption’ is a complex matter for the left. Continue reading

John Anderson, Helen Garner & racial offense

I am writing a book with the working title of Australia after socialism that explains the Australian intellectual left since the early 1990s. Tim Rowse in a review in Arena Magazine No. 4 of Meaghan Morris Ecstasy and Economics, described her approach thus:


Unlike those who practice political biography, she holds no brief for explicable human subjects; in her resolutely anti-humanist cultural analysis. Keating is a congeries of representations whose resolution into a single intelligible phenomenon is not to be taken for granted


Perhaps this is my guide and in a Focualdian style we might categorize political arguments in novel ways. The recent controversy about repeal of s18C of Racial Discrimination Act is an example. Continue reading

Is Parliament worthwhile? Further thoughts

I have an article in The Conversation on controversies around the performance of the Speaker of the Australian federal parliament.  A veteran MP from the conservative wing of a conservative party she received the Speakership as a consolation prize for not securing Ministry. Her performance has been criticized as biased, even by conservatives, and I argue in the article this may be a response to incentives. The best Speakers are likely to be those to whom it is the summit of their ambitions. There is however a broader issues to which I allude: why is Parliament important? Should we care about how it operates? Academic study of politics has often sought to restore the status of parliament and to make it a vehicle for deliberative democracy. I doubt whether this is feasiable. There is a long tradition of criticism of parliamentary democracy from the left going back to Rousseau and Marx and Lenin’s work largely builds on this foundation.  As I point out in the article many early Australian Labor activists were critical of parliamentarianism. Perhaps this contrasts with Britain where Labour’s long political apprenticeship rendered it very loyal to parliamentarianism.  ‘Old Labour’ revered Westminster; Herbert Morrison’s Government and Parliament was an example. This loyalty undermined the appeal of the radical left represented by Bennism in the 1980s. The right-wing breakaway from Labour, the Social Democratic Party, carried parliamentary fetishism further: the mere prospect of Labour Party members being able to disendorse MPs was cast as totalitarian. In the end it was New Labour that challenged aspects of Westminster traditions through its support of self-government for Wales and Scotland. Continue reading

The end of Catholic reconservatism: reblogged from 2010

The appointment of George Pell to a position in the Vatican (as a budget-cutting manager) reminds us of the interminable debate about the power of Catholic conservatism in Australia. Back in 2010 I wrote the following for this blog (and it was published on a Deakin site that has since disappeared). Events since then have only strengthened my argument. Continue reading

Class in Australia: further comments to my article

I have an article in The Conversation examining conservative responses to class in Australia. My inspiration was the rather clunky Anglo-Marxism of John Strachey and Harold Laski in the 1930s. They argued that as capitalism was in a phase of decline it could no longer afford the reforms that social democracy had offered – hence fascism, which they interpreted in a fairly mechanical sense as a creation of monopoly capitalism. Continue reading