The New Blame Game : Why The Liberals Were Massacred At Election
By Darryl Mason
The John Howard Liberals have been effectively destroyed at the 2007 Australian federal election. It's a stunning victory, and Kevin Rudd will go down in history as the Labor leader who brilliantly defeated the supposedly unbeatable John Howard.
The Liberals, and conservative media, will never admit it, but Labor won because they ran a smoother, far more effective campaign and had a better dream to sell, and they sold it with skill, focus and patience.
The Liberal Party is already tearing itself apart. Alexander Downer's interview on Sunday morning on Insiders was absolutely hopeless. Expect him to join the conga line of "fuck this, I'm outta here!" Liberals moving on to very greener pastures in the corporate world. Costello will be first, Downer most likely second, followed by Tony Abbott.
David Flint, salty monarchist and paranoid conservative, has kicked off the "We Wuz Robbed!" campaign, and previews the long months to come of rampant conspiracy theorising amongst Liberals as he decides to blame :
....internal Liberal fighting and media bias for the poor Coalition showing and giving Kevin Rudd "a dream run".
Ah yes, media bias.
Not the media bias from Andrew Bolt, or Tim Blair, or Miranda Devine or Piers Akerman or most of the editorialists at The Australian newspaper. They were all for shredding Rudd and Labor without pause, so that was fair enough in Flint's view.
He's talking about the 'media bias' of the dreaded ABC, Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age. Curse those Evil Lefties!
But Flint has more theories than just 'media bias'. Dark theories. Of 'own goals' inside the Liberal Party. There was a plot, dammit! And Flint knows all about it. But he won't elaborate. Naturally :
He also blamed "a member of cabinet" who he would not name who he suspected of having leaked information detrimental to the Liberal cause, first that the Prime Minister had lost the confidence of Cabinet later APEC, and then that Malcolm Turnbull had tried to get him to ratify Kyoto. The Liberal party will be "shaken" for some time," he said.
This sort of stuff will be very entertaining to watch in the next few weeks.
Former foreign minister Alexander Downer has some theories on why they were slaughtered at the election as well :
(He) has put the Coalition's federal election defeat down bad timing for himself and his Liberal colleagues.
"I think people just think it's time," the outgoing foreign minister told a function in his South Australian electorate of Mayo, which he retained.
"People think we've been in for about 11-½ years, they are comfortable with Australia, they think we've done a good thing but it's time for a change."
Mark Vaile echoes Downer, as he offers his explanation for why the Howard government was nuked at the election :
“Our commitment to the war against terrorism, in some quarters, affected our vote,” he said.
“There seemed to be a sense of just wanting to change for change's sake in Australia.”
Ahh, yes. The Timing. It was all about The Change.
That's what Liberals will keep telling themselves and each other. We weren't voted out because people were sick of us, or hated what we were doing to the country, or that they liked Rudd's ideas and policies more. Hell no. We lost because...you know, the timing.
Or the It's Timing.
Mark Vaile succinctly summed up one of the reasons why the Howard government were tossed out : they think Australian voters are morons who don't vote for policies, but because they simply wanted different politicians in power. They really do think you're that stupid.
John Howard will cop plenty of blame for the utterly humiliating defeat that will shatter the Liberal Party.
In fact, it's already started. Liberals turned on Howard before he even conceded defeat :
Liberal Senator and former minister Ian Macdonald said Mr Howard should have stepped aside a year ago.
"I say that it's tragic that someone who's done as much for Australia as Howard ends up like this. I'm very sad for Howard - I wish he had gone a year ago."
Liberal Senator Gary Humphries said Mr Howard's decision may have hindered the party's chances.
"It may well be that the prime minister's leadership didn't help the Coalition at the end of the day. It may well have been better to have had a different leader going into these last six to nine months of the campaign."
This will get very ugly indeed. But that's what happens to Australian conservatives when they get flogged. Lots of infighting, hating, and even spitting :
Glumly watching television as the results unfolded, Liberal supporters at the main party event in central Sydney, where Prime Minister John Howard was soon to concede defeat, were devastated.
Some said it felt like a funeral.
Vitriol spilled out when Labor's Maxine McKew, who could unseat Mr Howard in his Sydney electorate of Bennelong, appeared on TV.
"I hate that woman," one young man spat.
With all that hatred and spitting, this young lad could have a new career as a conservative columnist.
More senior Liberals are now going after Howard for not stepping aside a year ago and giving Costello a proper chance at beating Kevin Rudd :
Senator (Ian) Macdonald says he respects Mr Howard but he should have gone a year ago.
"It's a tragic way for such an able, committed man and someone who's been so good for Australia to leave," he said.
"I think it would have been different had Peter Costello been leading the party for 12 months."
He says the cabinet ministers should have that ensured Mr Howard went earlier.
"I'm very confident the Coalition would have won had Peter Costello been leading the party," he said.
Murdoch journo, and decade long Peter Costello pimp-in-chief and cheerleader, Glenn Milne, absolutely guts John Howard in this scathing piece of vitriol and conspiracy theorising :
We'll have to come back to Milne's toxic spew at Howard. It's too good not to dissect further.
You have to hand it to John Howard. The man who immortalised himself as "Lazarus with a triple bypass" has reached from just beyond the point of political extinction to achieve his ultimate personal aim; denying Peter Costello his chance to lead the Liberal Party.
Howard has likely incinerated two generations of Liberal leadership on the bonfire of his own vanity.
The price of Howard's fatal misjudgment of his own worth is Costello's exit and the consignment of the Liberal Party to at least two and perhaps three terms in Opposition.
Howard is no doubt well pleased with his work. As the Liberal Party tastes the bitter dregs of defeat and digests the effective departure of Costello we now realise why the outgoing prime minister constantly lectured his party room against hubris. Because all along it was the dark whisper that fluttered at the core of his own being.
And on Saturday night he finally succumbed to that spirit by playing out the last act in a succession of acts of wilful pride that eventually took his party down with him. Having ignored the repeated urgings of his colleagues to go both in his own interests and those of his party, Howard's hubris saw him finally dare the voters to dispatch him. They obliged, ultimately convinced it was the only way to get rid of him.
John Howard knows who to blame. Himself. Well, kind of :
"I accept full responsibility for the Liberal Party campaign and I therefore accept full responsibility for the Coalition's defeat in this election campaign...."Good to see John Howard taking "full responsibility" for one of his awful decisions (to stay on when he should have handed over to Treasurer Peter Costello).
Update : I've realised hours later that Howard only took "full responsibility" for the campaign, not for his decision to stay on past his use-by date
Of course, Howard's decision to finally take "full responsibility" for something came at the very same moment he was announcing he was going to be leaving Australian politics for good.
They will praise him for now. Maybe a day or two. But the first of many books featuring senior Liberal ministers and power brokers absolutely tearing Howard to pieces for staying too long and destroying the Liberal Party are about to head to the printers. Some will be on the shelves for Christmas.