Tuesday, 24 August 2010

"...the macho swagger of politics..."

Andrew Baghehot in the Economist theorises why Conservatives are casting longing looks down under.  He argues that it says more about our own politics than the applicability of Australia to the United Kingdom:

"...much of the British Tory kerfuffle over Mr Abbott is not really about Australia at all. I think it is a sublimated form of grumbling from the Conservative base, provoked by what they see as the soggily centrist line taken by their leader and prime minister, David Cameron. Mr Cameron hugs huskies and says climate change is a terrible threat. Mr Abbott has called arguments in favour of emissions trading schemes to tackle climate change "absolute crap" (though he later said this was "a bit of hyperbole")."

However, Baghehot's argument has a number of flaws.  He argues that common culture is not the explanation:

"Australia, somehow, is different. A shared history and language cannot explain it: few British politicians are terribly interested in Canada."

As one of those sad few who tries to maintain an interest in Canadian politics I'd point out that the Liberal dominance of Canadian national politics has limited its relevance.

To undermine the case of applicability of Australia he highlights the failure of Lynton Crosby's approach in the 2005 general election.  This is somewhat unfair as timing plays a role in the success of a message and the Tory campaign successfully identified issues that would become much more significant e.g. debt/deficit spending and immigration.  He also omits to mention the success of his approach in the London Mayoral election - the doughnut strategy. So it is a mixed picture of failure and success not simply failure.

Rather than it being his other argument of geek envy might it be more the desire for the simple ideological battles of old rather than the market tested focus grouped campaigning of our age?

Although it seems the Australian machismo allegedly goes beyond swagger.

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