September 02, 2015

Horse 1971 - There Will Not Be Blood

Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood.
- The Onion's "Lorem Ipsum" Text.

Commentators in the media have suggested that the upcoming by-election for the Western Australian seat of Canning is going to act as some sort of bellwether for the next Federal election when that is finally announced. I have even heard the theory that if the Liberal Party wee to lose the seat, then this might be the trigger for some sort of leadership spill or a cabinet reshuffle. Everyone from the Prime Minister to the Treasurer, to the Foreign Minister and even the Minister for Immigration have had hints hurled about in the media that their jibs are on the line, when no such indication has come out of the Liberal Party at all. There has been so much speculation in the media that we'd be well advised to collect a mop and bucket to clean up the mess on the floor. Somehow I just don't think so. You can leave your mop and bucket in the cupboard because no blood will land on the floor and there won't be a leadership spill either.

The so called "broad church" of the Liberal Party isn't as obviously split left-right as the Labor Party (and that's even before you talk about their coalition partners, the Nationals). There are members who deviate to the north and south on the Authoritarian/Libertarian scale as well as those who deviate to the left and right economically. Under someone like Robert Menzies or John Howard who had a sufficiently large enough personality to lead all the factions from central position that just isn't a problem but as Dr Brendan Nelson and even Malcolm Turnbull found out, once the party coagulates then trying to split the factions is mostly impossible.

During the last major leadership challenge (which was as long ago as 2009) which ousted Turnbull and installed Abbott, Joe Hockey found out that he had a reasonable amount of support at the time. He also learned that the forcefulness of Abbott's personality was too much though and he had to fall in line behind.
This is what the public almost schizophreniacally denies. By most measures, Abbott is usually less popular than most other potential leaders of the Liberal Party, yet because under a Westminster parliamentary system of democracy it is the party or groups of parties which come together to form government, their opinion matters nought. Under a Westminster system, the Sensible Party could win government and still appoint Dr Filthy McNasty as Prime Minister and thee wouldn't be a single thing that the electorate could do about it.

Sitting governments in Australia tend to be far more stable than oppositions. The average tenure for a Prime Minister in Australia is up around 49 months but the Leader of the Opposition can expect to spend only 31 in that job. The reason for this is obvious. Parties in government are by definition larger than those in opposition; so the factions which exist are also larger and the margins also tend to be larger. Parties in opposition are by definition smaller and the margins which determine who becomes leader are also smaller. The only real task of an opposition apart from the usual rough and tumble within a parliament is to win back government. To that end, changing the leader if it means that the party is more saleable to the public is highly advisable.
Also, in the period immediately following a general election there is a tendency for leaders to spontaneously resign. Either a former Prime Minister will resign because they have proven that the public doesn't like them or Opposition Leaders who have taken the party to electoral failure will feel a sense of disappointment. Prime Ministers do not suffer from this because they have obviously won. The only time that you're likely to get a sitting Prime Minister removed from the top job is either after a long period of government or during a period of massive internal instability. The Liberal Party as it stands, has neither of these. This is still the first term of the Abbott Government and the party shows no obvious signs of instability either. Hockey's position as Treasurer is also quite safe as well because unless he intends to launch a leadership challenge, which he has shown no indication of doing so, then unless there's some other major hitherto unknown reason why there should be any change at the top, then I expect that the entire cabinet will look exactly the same going into the next federal election as it does not.

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