8. Errington: How will the Libs react to defeat?
Howard biographer Wayne Errington writes:
My ANU colleague and Crikey commentator Norman Abjorensen is forecasting a death blow for the Liberal Party. If, as seems increasingly likely, the Coalition loses on 24 November, the Liberals are in danger of self-destruction without the spoils of office to help enforce discipline.
The prospect of a new "small-l" liberal force has been foreshadowed for some time. The Coalition parties have handled their two previous in opposition poorly. The Liberals are a party built for government. A successful Liberal Party leader commands a high level of authority. Opposition leaders, almost by definition, have yet to prove their leadership credentials.
Certainly, the Liberals would miss the spoils of office in every state and territory. Yet, the two-party system has been very stable for over fifty years. Something like the Liberal Party will always exist as long as we keep the current electoral system. If a loss causes some soul-searching amongst Liberals about the purpose of their party, that is no bad thing.
The direction of the party may depend on who survives the deluge. The Coalition loss in 1983 left the dries in a difficult position, allowing Andrew Peacock to defeat John Howard for the leadership. This time around, with the likes of Malcolm Turnbull, Gary Humphries, Marise Payne and Christopher Pyne in danger, the election could determine the character of the party in opposition.
After a decade of Howard’s dominance, the right is in the ascendant. Working out exactly who is liberal or conservative after a decade in power, though, is difficult. Nothing has given Howard greater pleasure than watching wets such as Ruddock and Vanstone implement his authoritarian refugee policies. Brendan Nelson, Helen Coonan and Julie Bishop have toed Howard’s line against their ideological instincts.
The main danger of factional wars is that one or both factions decide that they would prefer to lose an election than see the party victorious under the leadership of their internal enemies. Howard was in that position in 1984. Yet, even the troglodyte right in New South Wales has acquiesced to the sensible and centrist Barry O’Farrell as parliamentary leader.
Howard might even become a unifying force in defeat. Whatever the dominant ideology in the party, it always needs to be balanced with the pragmatism that has been the hallmark of successful Liberal governments. Why on earth would the wets leave the Liberal Party at the very time their nemesis leaves office? They’ll be celebrating, not deserting.
In Western Australia, Victoria and Federally, compulsory preferential voting is used. You must "number every square".
Queensland and New South Wales elections employ optional preferential voting. Voters can just give a '1' to one candidate and leave it at that, or do that plus give someone else a '2'; they can fill in as many squares as they like.
In deciding our Senate preference ticket in Queensland, the Democrats used the following general principles as a guide to group the various parties:
• smaller parties and independents who are sufficiently like-minded to justifiably put ahead of the Greens – this group included Climate Change Coalition, Carers Alliance and What Women Want, as well as two grouped Independents – Couper and Alberts;
• smaller parties and independent too philosophically different to be able to justify putting ahead of the Greens, but still OK enough to put ahead of the major parties – this group included the Liberty & Democracy Party (LDP), Socialist Alliance, Senator On-Line, the Fishing & Lifestyle Party and another Independent
• smaller parties and independents who are basically too antithetical to Democrat philosophy to preference ahead of the major parties, given the tiny but real risk that our preferences might end up helping to elect them – there are quite a few of these – Family First ended up here after some debate, along with the DLP, Fishing Party, Shooters, CEC, Fred Nile’s mob, One Nation and then Pauline Hanson last.
"This leads to the question of which sad old face of a defeated regime will become the first lamb sent to the slaughter. This leader of the Opposition will become the public face of a party that is about to receive the full force of ALP political retribution.
Downer will very likely be forced to resign in disgrace over AWB, Andrews will be persecuted for his negligence, Hockey will be slapped around when the government releases the true statistics of Workchoices and Abbott will be taken to task over a anything he’s touched in the last 6 years. Whoever accepts the mantle of Leader of the Opposition for the first term of the Rudd government is going to be smashed to smithereens."
Week beginning the new Rudd millenium I think maybe let’s hope. (Friday 23rd November)
Forget this gleemail being an election free zone - it’s all I can think about. I feel sick with anxiety about the result despite the fact that some pundits are now predicting a 6 - 8 seat win to Labor. As we all know there’s only one poll that matters and that’s the one tomorrow. I apologise to my Liberal voter readers for my partisanship, but hey, this isn’t the ABC, and it may well be you guys having the last laugh tomorrow night. If so, you’re welcome to send me gloating emails next week.
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