Only The Sangfroid

Mark is of fair average intelligence, who is neither perverse, nor morbid or suspicious of mind, nor avid for scandal. He does live in an ivory tower.

These are his draft thoughts…

We are the angry mob… If not Abbott, then who? #auspol

I’m willing to place a $5 bet that Malcolm Turnbull will never lead the Opposition. Even despite the fact that he’s despised within the LNP, he’s popular with the wrong crowd. Namely, lefties.

Lefties, as I’ve said before, love Turnbull with a passion I struggle to explain. He likes WorkChoices, is libertarian, and had a meltdown over Godwin Grech. The only reason I can come up with to explain this inexplicable love is that he was so ineffective as Opposition Leader that Kevin Rudd was able to enjoy several months of unprecedented popularity.

Of course, the current LNP isn’t setting the world alight with its sensible decisions and consistent logic, so my wager is perhaps an unsafe one.

So what happens when the suspension of disbelief generators currently powering the Abbott campaign (and why is there an Abbott campaign outside an election period?) break down? Who will take over the leadership?  And why don’t we hear more conservatives writing about potential leaders in the LNP?

Let’s go through the Shadow Cabinet and look for some potential leaders:

Julie Bishop

I only hear from Bishop when she’s said something stupid.  I’m still not sure why she’s got this portfolio.  Is it because Abbott is the go-to guy for comment on international relations?  LNP policy seems to be ‘Pick up the phone to [Insert foreign leader here].’  Would LNP go back to Howard-era foreign policy?  Admittedly, I don’t get the ALP foreign policy either, which seems to be little more than Rudd’s Whim.

Bishop has a reputation for being hard and strong, but I can’t think of a time when she’s used these attributes to demonstrate that she’s a potential leader.  That she’s been deputy to so many leaders suggests that she doesn’t have many strong views of her own, but shifts with the changing winds.

Joe Hockey

Hockey is the Beazley of the LNP: by all accounts a nice guy, but pragmatic in a way which leaves people wondering what he really believes.  You want a leader who can say: ‘This is what I believe in.  When I negotiate with other parties, those beliefs support and direct me towards suitable outcomes.’  It’s the idea of a ‘No Surprises Please’ leader.  Hockey doesn’t provide this.  Apart from babble about shopkeeper parents and something about sitting in the dirt with indigenous elders, I have no idea what this guy is about.  Thus, his Hockeynomics nonsense is his only defining characteristic: a haphazard collections of weirdo-land economics and oafish outbursts at people who question the ‘auditing’ of his numbers.

Christopher Pyne

Pyne is a strange beast and his career seems to be on a similar trajectory as Howard’s.  In fact, of all the contenders, he is probably the most able to adopt the same political strategies as Howard.

In the 1970s-80s, Howard came across as a cheap and nasty used car salesman.  The whiny voice, the mealy-minded and often mealy-mouthed persona did nothing to put people at ease.  When he rose to power in the ’90s, this image had changed into an almost grandfatherly statesman.  Few of his opinions had changed, but his ability to convey them had.  It was an image that had little to do with the reality: Howard was a reactionary who was out to squash anything which threatened his utopian views and he spoke exclusively to the nastiest parts of the electorate.

At the moment, Pyne comes across as a sneering, visionless, yapping poodle of a man.  He is almost identical to the early Howard, but cleaner (look at early pictures of Howard; the guy looked like he needed a bath).

If Pyne made the same cosmetic changes as Howard, he could easily fit the role of leader.  Slow the voice down and drop it a few octaves: people find deeper voices more reassuring and less panicked.  Be seen more regularly around reassuring things: dark, laminated tables, bookshelves with leather-clad books, and the transformation would be complete.  I think it’s telling that Pyne avoids the same stunts as Gillard, Abbott, and Hockey.  You don’t see him in hard-hats pretending to be a worker.

The important part to the Pyne-as-Leader theory is that leadership doesn’t necessarily have to be about content.  Howard had very little content and yet managed to be a good (in the sense of long-lasting) leader.  Pyne could continue in this fashion (certainly more effectively than Rudd, who tried similar tactics).

Andrew Robb

I have a soft spot for Robb.  Robb is an intelligent guy surrounded by morons and when you have to second guess what morons are thinking, you end up a bit baffled.  Indeed, the only time I’ve heard the guy gaffe is when he’s been trying to make sense of the absurd nonsensery of his colleagues.  I don’t know whether his public history with mental illness will be a disadvantage.  Would the ALP stoop to that kind of muck raking?  Probably.

He struggles with communication of ideas.  He worked with Hewson during the ‘Fightback!’ years (which was probably the last time the LNP had an intellectually interesting — even if wrong-headed — policy platform).  If he had more charisma and better communication skills, he’d probably be a good leader.

Malcolm Turnbull

He crashed and burned the last time he was leader for all the obvious reasons.  The guy is all hype and he’s an easy target.  He doesn’t cope with crises well.  He doesn’t have the advantage of being as slippery as Pyne or as level-headed as Robb.

Kevin Andrews

I don’t think there’s any way to resuscitate this man’s career.  Andrews is toxic and is only still in the Cabinet because of his links to Abbott.  There is no way that this man will rise any higher.  I’m shocked that he’s still in Parliament, to be perfectly honest.

Greg Hunt

You poor bastard.  You poor, poor bastard.

I don’t know how this guy doesn’t cry himself to sleep each night.  This is the guy who has had to front up to the media and say with a straight face that he is responsible for the LNP’s eleventy dozen climate change policies over the years.  I don’t know how he manages it.  Greg Hunt is what happens when you give bright, rising stars poisonous portfolios.

Here was a guy who managed to keep Downer’s nose clean for the most part while he was Foreign Minister.  Downer is a self-destructive moron, but Hunt somehow managed to keep him vaguely on target.

I doubt Hunt could ever manage to get the profile needed to be leader with his current baggage, which is a shame.  I see him as the Bill Shorten of the LNP, but without the backstabbing.

Scott Morrison

Not a chance.  To his credit, he’s managed to have his own profile despite Abbott dominating the media with his immigration strategy, but Morrison hasn’t been able to say anything significant beyond Border Protection.  He comes across as a bully rather than as a statesman, and has no opportunity to soften that image.

Sophie Mirabella

The Gillard of the LNP.  The similarities are weirdly striking, even down to the annoying voice.  I’m always a bit surprised that she doesn’t get better portfolios, but until things stop dropping out of her personal life into the chattering pages of newspapers, I doubt we’ll see her rise.  Then again, I never expected Gillard to be leader for similar reasons.

Bruce Billson


Hmmmm… That doesn’t look promising.  The political machine breeds mediocrity, but to have so few serious leadership candidates in the Shadow Cabinet is more than slightly depressing for a young conservative like me.  Then again, do leaders choose Shadow Cabinets in order to reduce the potential for leadership spills?  Anybody interesting on the back benches or outer Shadow Cabinet?

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