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Byron Shire
July 15, 2024

Policy ambition, age and conservatives 

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The sad state of conservative politics has again dominated the world stage this week, with the Tory wipeout in the UK, and a chaotic result in the French elections, reducing President Macron’s Centralist Alliance to 168 seats in the 577-seat parliament. 

In yet more evidence, the European political centre is fraying, the Macron coalition lost seats (and its majority) to both the hard right and hard left. 

In the US, the Republicans’ presumptive candidate, Donald Trump, continues to wade through the courts of America. 

I pray the question of ‘how many?’ is never asked at the Westower Tavern trivia night in West Ballina, because I have totally lost track! 

Grand Old Party 

The once Grand Old Party (GOP) has delayed Trump’s formal endorsement until September, in order to be certain he is legally qualified to run.

Back home in Australia, Peter Dutton’s bizarre plan to revive a debunked 1960s nuclear energy policy has been disavowed by his ‘good mate’ David Crisafulli, leader of the LNP opposition.

Mr Crisafulli is well placed to win the looming Qld election – and the last thing he wants is Dutton uranium in his saddlebags.

The UK, US and Australian conservatives all have three things in common. 

The corrosive hard-right influence of the Murdoch media; a propensity to respond to every setback by lurching further away from the ‘centre’; and a continuing dominance of white Anglo men, who very much look and sound of their party founders. 

This was fine a century ago, but in 2024, conservatives have palpably failed to keep up with social and economic modernity. 

Just ask the teals in Australia, or the incoming Labor government in the UK.

Conservative politics is narrowing, not broadening, and you would ordinarily expect the electoral pressure of plummeting primary votes and declining donations to force some sort of cataclysmic remaking of centre-right political organisations. But this isn’t happening – for two reasons.

First, Lachlan Murdoch. 

His father’s media empire is redoubling its efforts to push conservative politics further right. 

So, Fox and Sky in particular, keep old conservatives on life-support and demonise the younger reformers who dare to champion renewable energy, social inclusion and intergenerational equity – especially in housing policies.

Weakened left

The second reason seems just as intractable – the political left is weakened by division, and seems almost as resilient to change as the conservatives. 

I do not blame the Australian Labor Party and their UK Labour colleagues for pursuing a ‘small target’ strategy.  

It is standard strategy in politics to allow your bumbling political opponents to implode without interruption. 

But it is one thing to present bland and boring policy to keep the focus on your enemies. 

It is quite another thing to not do any big policy homework at all – and it seems the centre left has done just that – at least in Australia, where the Labor prime minister gave the LNP a lifeline when he gambled and lost on the Voice referendum. 

In the US, the problem is even worse with Americans of all political stripes telling Democrat pollsters – for two years – they want younger leadership in the Oval Office. 

A New York Times survey showed 70 per cent of voters perceived Biden as too old for the presidency. 

When drilling into those numbers, it is no surprise to see young voters feel most strongly about his age – and the youth vote traditionally is Democrat. 

So they have ignored the voters and ignored reality. 

The recent debate with Trump, where Biden was completely away with the fairies, is confronting for those of us who see the American president as the leader of the free world. 

I can only imagine the impact upon his own citizens. 

Biden damages himself even further by maintaining ‘I am being told the polling is neck and neck’, when all the published polls show Trump drawing ahead of him after the debate.  

The left has a huge opportunity to take and remake the political centre, not only here in Australia, but with our close friends and important allies – the UK and the US. 

Showing their age 

But like Joe Biden, all our political parties are truly showing their age. 

They all look way past their use-by-date – I say this as a comment on policy performance. 

Voters peeling away from the major parties for their own reasons are trying to remake the system. 

But until those powerbrokers actually listen and act on these legitimate concerns, they are selling our parliaments short. 

Under the current party system, the mateship and skills you need to get elected are the polar opposite of the qualities needed once you get elected. Too many good people get strained out of consideration for high office by our ageing political parties, who are helping themselves, and not helping our country.

♦ Catherine Cusack is a former NSW Liberal MLC.

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  1. Conservative politics and the LNP/Media protection racket! It’s basically like a your cars mudguard, while it’s all presented as nice and shiny on top, underneath where they attempt to hide everything and never ever under any circumstances, allow anyone to ever see it’s always dirty and covered in filth. These days a lot more people are looking under that LNP/Media mudguard? While the rest of the world is safe for now, the servile Trump MAGA slave cult wouldn’t know what the Tump/Murdoch media mudguard is and even if they did, they seem to like dirty filthy, just cannot get enough?

  2. Very good article but bear in mind UK Labour’s vote was the same as Corbyn’s. No increase
    The landslide was due to 30% of the Tory vote going to the far right and there are no preferences. Also Trump is now 2/1 on Biden And Kamahl 6 /1 so the punters are sure expecting Trump


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