Tomorrows Antiques Today.
Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 21, 2008
Why do they bother? It’s the only question we can ask.
The Qld Nationals have re-elected Lawrence Springborg, an otherwise entirely likeable individual, to replace that boofhead Jeff Seeney. His prize? – to occupy one of the two positions of Opposition Leader in Queensland politics.
We need two up here because the whole is apparently less than the sum of the parts, which leaves the broad Opposition just a third of a leader short of competency – maybe if they had three conservative parties with an Opposition Leader each they’d get somewhere.
Why Springborg pounced is fairly obvious – Seeney was out of his depth, annoyed the bejeesus out of people and basically hasn’t said a thing worth listening to for years. He’s not a particularly charismatic guy either so the Nats were really sitting in a small canoe somewhere in the upper reaches of Shit Creek under a Seeney leadership.
But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what the Nats do; the next non-Labor Premier of Qld will be a Liberal- which gets us onto this whole United Conservative Party comedy act.
Jeff Seeney’s great idea was pretty much like Lawrence Springborgs last great idea – some type of merger between the Liberals and Nationals in Qld politics. The logic behind this idea is pretty simple, which speaks volumes about the political nous of its supporters; a single party won’t be screwed over by optional preferential voting.
The big problem as far as many LibNat Coalitionists see it, is that optional preferential voting doesn’t guarantee preference flows from conservative minor parties, nor for that matter from each other, it splits the conservative vote in 3 cornered contests allowing Labor to romp home using Greens preferences when they need it (which do tend to flow where it counts), and the whole cranky pants outlook towards optional preferential generally acts as a convenient excuse for why the conservatives keep getting hammered in elections.
It seems to have escaped most of them that the reason they don’t win elections actually has more to do with the fact that their political platforms, or what passes for them, are irrelevant to a majority of the electorate. Qld has dramatically changed over the last 20 years, even the last decade – these guys haven’t adapted to that change and until they do they all better get used to being treated as a joke.
The reason why a United Conservative Party will not work in Qld is simply because of the nature of conservative political support in the State.
A growing number of conservatives in both South East Qld and the major regional population centres are Liberal voters that think the Nats are a bunch of unsophisticated political Neanderthals that aren’t to be trusted. You will never, for instance, see a National Party member hold a Brisbane seat ever again. It’s not necessarily the Nationals brand that they don’t like, it’s the political positions that have created that brand. It’s why we’ve seen ordinarily conservative voters on the Gold Coast vote Labor rather than National when there wasn’t a proper Liberal candidate standing.
Yet any united conservative party in Qld would have the Nationals as the dominant force simply because they have a larger party base and a larger parliamentary representation at the moment. From the outset the merged party would start to represent everything that turns off the largest and fastest growing section of conservative support in Qld – the moderately conservative Liberal voter.
The tensions between the old Libs and the old Nats in any merged party would become unmanageable; their political differences would be untenable. They would become perpetually caught in the same problem that John Howard found himself in last year – if you pander to the Nats voters and their brand of political interests, you turn off your inner city voting block and start endangering seats. If you pander to the inner city voting block and focus on their brand of political interests, you turn off the Nats voters and start endangering seats. When that happens, you spend so much time shoring up your two ideologically opposed support bases that the outer suburban voters become easy pickings for Labor, as well as which ever support base you failed to maintain.
It’s the consequence of having conservative parties in Australia being addicted to moralising and using nanny state social politics as a political weapon – the things that divide these groups on social policy and their general views on the way that society ought to work are simply greater than the things that unite them. The conservatives should probably just STFU about these types of issues like Labor does and they might not have as big a problem. But they just can’t seem to help themselves.
There is no easy way forward for the conservative side of politics in Qld, but a merger would make the job even harder over the short and medium term considering the initial dominance of the National party in any merged entity in Qld – especially in terms of its likely effect on the moderate Liberal voting block. The long term solution, and one that John Howard was particularly successful at, is where the Liberals simply destroy and replace the National Party over time, slowly but deliberately and with a vicious intent.
Yet even then, the problem of the ideologically opposed twin support bases remains and will probably never be fully reconcilable.