Thursday, November 26, 2009

It's grim down under...

Once upon a time Australia had a successful conservative party called the Liberal Party, for reasons of Australian history. It governed Australia for 42 of the last 60 years. Sure it had its ups and downs but it persevered and gave conservatives around the world hope and inspiration. Not for nothing were Robert Menzies and John Howard so admired by the British right.

Sadly that was then and this is now. In the last two years the Liberal Party lost a federal election and has imploded. First it elected as leader its very own version of Iain Duncan Smith, Brendan Nelson. Then it deposed him after only nine months. Next it elected Malcolm Turnbull who has lasted until now despite rubbish poll ratings and endless speculation.

But in the last week the party has descended into chaos over proposed climate change legislation. A large number of front benchers have resigned and at a meeting of the parliamentary party a motion to hold a leadership election was defeated by only 48:35, despite the only challenger coming forward being unelectable even by current Liberal standards. (ABC News: Defiant Turnbull takes on climate rebels & Conservativeinternational: Six frontbenchers quit Liberal frontbench in protest at Malcolm Turnbull's climate change deal with Kevin Rudd) One of them, Tony Abbott, is likely to be the credible challenger for the leadership that Turnbull has so far not yet faced.

What makes this even more ridiculous is that it's highly likely the Australia's Labor government will get climate change legislation passed one one way or another - either moderate proposals now with Liberal backing in the Senate or radical proposals after a potential "double dissolution" election that will give the Green Party the balance of power in the Senate. But common sense and pragmatism seems lacking in all this.

Here in the UK the Conservatives went through a horrible six years of naval gazing, infighting and umpteen leadership elections before we even began to get our spirit back. Now it seems that affliction has spread to the Australian Liberals and will harm them for a long time to come.

Oh and yes the Liberals have had leadership problems in the past. They once had an eight month leadership by Alexander Downer that few remember with praise - see YouTube: The Downer Months. But the party then had ideas and alternative talent, and soon found a viable new leader who swept them to election. Today it seems to have none of these.

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