Sunday 26 April 2020

Why the Right Wing is Victorious?

Memoirs, I suspect, are likely tainted by subjectivity. A driver inevitably remembers the car crash from her own personal perspective, not from that of the other driver. She is quick to recollect the things she did right and how reckless the other guy was. Self-justification fills autobiographies.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that driver is wrong, only that one should exercise some skepticism. Stories have many sides.

Malcolm Turnbull has been reminiscing about the car crash that was his Prime Ministership (September 2015 to August 2018) and has been telling anyone ready to listen.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Leftists may find that surprisingly instructive.

Turnbull got the top job amidst heaps of goodwill from “progressive” Australia. By 2018, when he was deposed, that appeared to have changed a lot.

A small-l Liberal (aka a “classical liberal”), Turnbull was essentially a centrist (therefore, almost a “socialist” to those to his right): a neoliberal in economic policy (inspiring Kevin Rudd to call him the “Member for Goldman-Sachs”). He openly supported up-market feminism and LGBT rights – if mainly in words. Altogether, three cookie points for Turnbull, from the perspective of the upper middle class, liberal/leftish voter.

Moreover, Turnbull had once led the republican “charge” against the monarchist lines in the ultimately defeated referendum over Australia’s constitutional arrangements (another pet cause of the liberal/leftish, upper middle class) and had disinterestedly supported Rudd’s emissions trading scheme, which would have meant a boon for financial speculators.

But, perhaps most importantly, he wasn’t the arch-conservative Neanderthal and quasi-alt-right Tony Abbott (whom Turnbull deposed).

All those things, however, didn’t ingratiate Turnbull with everybody. Labor politicians, like Kristina Keneally (if not the ideological twin sister of Turnbull, at least a close cousin) rightly saw in him a rival for the affections of the liberal/leftish, upper middle class electorate.

But it was within the Liberal Party where Turnbull really faced stiff, albeit less public, opposition. To chronicle that would be long and unnecessary, for at least elements of that story are in the public record.

And Turnbull himself adds less well-known elements:
  1. Why did he not only abandon the emissions trading scheme but also his own National Energy Guarantee? In a nutshell, because of unyielding opposition inside his party, prepared to openly revolt. Turnbull: “Ultimately, if people are prepared to blow it up ... then it all falls. So it was my determination to keep the show together.”
  2. How did that opposition operate? Stripping the charged language actually employed: by applying relentless pressure and disruption to the point that a surrender was the only alternative left. Turnbull: “You create enough mayhem, enough damage, that people in the middle say, ‘It has got to come to an end, how can I stop this?’ ”
  3. Wouldn’t that hurt the Party? Here Turnbull’s words are best: “Kerry Stokes, media proprietor … goes to see Rupert [Murdoch] and Rupert says, ‘We’ve got to get rid of Malcolm,’ and Stokes says, ‘Why?’. And Rupert says, ‘He can’t beat Shorten,’ and Stokes says, ‘Well, that is not right … To which Murdoch says, ‘Three years of Labor wouldn't be so bad’.”
He finds that and the internal opposition “unhinged”. Their behaviour is beyond rational understanding, he said four times in less than five minutes.


Turnbull holds an epic grudge, that is undeniable. In his narrative, he’s never at fault. It’s all his ultra-rightwing opponents’.

Greater the need for caution.

That said, his account rings largely true. So he may call his internal opponents “unhinged”, but the fact is they won and he lost. His centrist, unity come what may, “sanity” didn’t help him any.

Turnbull didn’t use the term, but he describes a game of chicken. His opponents won by the mere threat of doing what Turnbull hesitated to do then but is attempting to do now. Never a thought of calling their bluff.

Leftists within centre-left parties could learn something from that.

No comments:

Post a Comment