Ghosts of John Elliott and Katherine West

Malcolm Turnbull’s basic problem is that like John Howard Mark I he is out of step with his own party. Howard won the Liberal leadership in 1985 due to missteps by Andrew Peacock rather than any strong base of support. Turnbull, once Peter Costello was gone, was the only credible candidate once Brendan Nelson fell over. Howard had to deal with a party formed in the Menzies-Fraser image and Turnbull has to deal with a party formed in John Howard’s image, Howard was to the right of his party, Turnbull to its left. It is difficult for a leader out of step with his party, electoral success can sustain such a leader and Tony Blair was an example of this but in opposition it is very difficult. Turnbull’s bravado is the functional equivalent of Howard’s comments on Asian immigration: an aggressive attempt to impose his stamp on politics. Turnbull won’t win the next election and he won’t remain Liberal leader. But perhaps like John Howard he can recover. Voters always saw Howard as a possible PM, unlike Alexander Downer, and once Labor was past its use-by date Howard could led the Liberals to victory. Eventually Labor will be unpopular and Turnbull would be a credible alternative PM. Will he have the patience and discipline to learn as did Howard? Will the Liberals eventually reshape themselves back to the Menzies-Fraser tradition? or will Turnbull be the contemporary equivalent of John Elliott? Currently however Kevin Rudd like John Howard is getting his opponents mad. Paul Kelly is insightful on the basis of Liberal fears of Labor’s ‘corporatism’, curiously these recall not the Whitlam spectre that some Liberals evoke but rather the anti-Hawke arguments of Katherine West, the would-be Geoffrey Blainey of Australian political science.

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  1. [...] their church as a reference, to giving away some services for free, to a trick you can do with …Ghosts of John Elliott and Katherine West Geoff RobinsonHoward had to deal with a party formed in the Menzies-Fraser image and Turnbull has to deal with a [...]

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