The Times, I notice, says that there are lessons for Cameron over the Australian brouhaha.
Don’t think so. As The Age writer says, it’s not even the same as the Gillard Rudd fiasco:
When Julie Bishop [deputy PM for non-Australians] returned to Australia from visiting Afghanistan last week, she could see that Tony Abbott’s prime ministership was in serious difficulty.
She phoned him on Thursday last week and told him she was not campaigning for his job. Neither was anyone else, as far as she could see. The deputy offered to work with the leader to improve the government’s fortunes. She offered to help him with the major speech he was scheduled to give to the National Press Club the following week.
Abbott, apparently suspicious of Bishop’s motives, brushed aside her offers and a tense and sometimes angry conversation followed. Abbott rejected his deputy’s help. Trust seemed to have evaporated. This phone conversation is analogous to the moment when trust between the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, and his deputy, Julia Gillard, broke.
In the case of Labor, it came when Gillard read The Sydney Morning Herald disclosure that Rudd’s chief of staff, Alister Jordan, was testing the support for Rudd among Labor MPs.
But the analogy does not extend beyond that point. In Gillard’s case, she and her lieutenants seized the opportunity to precipitate their immediate challenge for the leadership.
In Bishop’s case, she did not sever the relationship with her leader. She did not move to organise a challenge. She gritted her teeth and braced herself to continue as deputy to a suspicious and increasingly isolated leader. She knew that there was a spontaneous upwelling of angry discontent among Liberal MPs. How could she not? Her colleagues had been asking her to run against Abbott.
But she did not seek to channel the revolt to serve her own ambition. Indeed, she had been telling agitated backbenchers to give Abbott more time.
Bishop was determined not to be Gillard. Remarkably, as Abbott announced on Friday, her loyalty now extends so far as standing by her leader to oppose a spill motion in the Liberal party room. This is one of the central differences between the two episodes. Rudd was brought down by a coup led by the deputy leader and an echelon of factional lieutenants. Abbott is under attack in a spontaneous revolt by the lowly footsoldiers of his party, the backbench members of parliament.
Indeed. The challenge is not from Bishop in the least and she knows she’s not up for the top job, she’s there by Abbott’s good graces. I didn’t say she’s not up “to” the top job. She’s well up “to” it, her recent successes far overshadowing Theresa May’s bumbling performances over here.
No, the one Abbott faces the challenge from is a man called Turnbull. Here is The Age poll:
The Age writer concludes:
Abbott and his Treasurer have failed to generate business confidence. Many in the Liberal party are looking to Turnbull to achieve what the Abbott government has not. To win the confidence of the community and the business community.
Abbott’s prime ministership is now mortally wounded. There is a strong chance that he will lose a ballot on Tuesday. But even if he doesn’t, the damage of open party revolt has already been inflicted.
“Once the leadership is in play, prime ministers ultimately cannot recover,” says an Abbott minister who hopes he will succeed but is resigned to the likelihood that he will not.
Abbott has always had an issue with strong women who succeed. How does a successful woman behave? Doe she diminish her success in order not to overshadow her leader? Or does she do the best she can for the party and its PM and bask in their mutual reflected glory?
And yet Abbott has one woman in the background, his “minder”, who is roundly detested by all and whom many are blaming as the worst gatekeeper ever. In fact, for a man with such a bad reputation with women, he is sure led around by a lot of them, not least by his daughters he trots out, as Sarkozy does his.
Petticoat government in Abbott’s case?
But there are other questions of a more general nature and this might be the bit Cameron might look at.
I read an article by Abbott years ago, a defence of conservatism and whilst readers of this post might not be conservative, the piece was mighty good in the sense that it was clearly spelt out and Abbott at that time was a good deputy.
So, what happens after a leader reaches the top job? Something certainly happens to his judgment. Looking at Cameron, he must be well aware of the views in the community – UKIP is no aberration – and yet he acts as if he can’t respond, let alone want to. I’m sure Dave would like to have been the superhero who did a Maggie and fought back for Britain within the EU.
Sometimes, it seems, there’s a “minor” issue in his masters’ eyes, e.g. gay “marriage” and he’s allowed free rein. So he goes beserk bludgeoning a thing through his party simply does not, insubstantial proportions, want nor care much about and by this he wishes to be seen as strong.
Were Nige in there or Beaker, would they be any better? Anyone in the top job seems to go into this “Can’t Do” mode, blunting anything coming from cabinet or party, playing down anything coming out of the community, even the captured MSM.
Looking around the world, there are pathetic leaders all over these days, except for Merkel, who is plain evil, backed as she is by Bertelsmann and the Bavarian illumined.
Seems obvious to me that the problem is in a system which returns two parties alternately to office, sometimes with a third party yapping at the heels. And the whole notion of party is ridiculous as there are issues which MPs within the party do not agree on. So why should they have to vote for them? What on earth is the justification for a Whip slamming a member against a wall and telling him he’d better vote for this or else?
The place where this has to be killed off is at preselection. Just as MPs must declare funding, so they should have to declare if they were preselected by a small group or cabal. If so, then they’re ineligible. An arbitrary figure could be put on it. A PPC can stand if, say, over 100 people and under 500 want him or her.
You might well say that’s just a party branch under another name. It is but it clearly does not recognize formal party as an organizational factor in Parliament. The runner of business in parliament would then be the Leader of the House, according to submissions from MPs for that week, put down as business for the next week. Perfectly easy to organize.
That Leader of the House, elected by the whole house, is the one who meets and greets foreign dignitaries. Easy enough for a deputy to take on the order of business role for the interim.