If we can’t get a new PM, we can at least rediscover our values.
Above the stage, there it was. The 1950s
colour portrait of our gracious sovreign lady the Queen, the crossed
Union Jack and Australian flag. Yup. You could tell we were in the
middle of John Howard territory – but he was the only candidate for
Bennelong who didn’t make it to the Not Happy John Campaign launch at
the Eastwood Masonic Hall.

“Let’s have fun”, the indefatigable Margo Kingston yelled (more on her later).

Fun
it was. The hall was overflowing, and the crowd – the decidedly
mainstream crowd, please note (only a handful sported dreadlocks) –
fired up. Then again, who‘d ever thought they’d go to a political event
where Richard Neville was introducing John Valder?

The
Oz
veteran MCed – and his message was simple. “We have a shared purpose
– to restore something shamelessly squandred – decency, honesty,
generosity and our great good name”. And then he introduced “one of
the few people in the hall older than me” – former Liberal Party
president John Valder.

The Not Happy John campaign is his
brainchild. Valder admits he is planning to vote for Bronwyn Bishop in
Mackellar. He wants to see a Liberal Government, not a Howard one.

The Prime Minister’s lies, Valder says, have “precariously placed [him] to being a liability to his own party”.

Valder’s
new political epiphany occurred when he saw 500 people turn up on a
Friday night for a refugee forum in Howard’s own seat of Bennelong.

But
what about the wider group who have gathered to his flag?. Brian
Deegan, the former South Australian magistrate who lost his son in the
Bali bombing and is taking on Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is one
of them. “I am part of the Coalition of the Unwilling,” he declared.
“We are not against Australia or Australians – only the current
leadership. We are not against war on terrorism and tryanny – only war
waged incompetently”.

Can these people have clout?

“Politicians
have got us at the stage where all we do is rant and rave at each
other,” Margo Kingston, the Sydney Morning Herald’s webdiarist and
author of the Not Happy John polemic said. “We take our democracy for
granted.”

Kingston’s big tent approach is one of the strongest attractions of the Not Happy John campaign – but can it all hang together?

It
did for the launch – but can it last for the campaign? Andrew Wilkie is
the only Green I’ve ever seen in double cuffs – but is he electable in
Bennelong?

There are a lot of “ifs” there.

If you’re like
me, you hate those pooncey MBA types who think they’re cool because
they know a few lines from Sun Tzu and The Art of War.

The
thinking of a different sage should be applied now – Vyvyan, the
indestructible punk from The Young Ones and his advice: “This calls for
a very special blend of psychology and extreme violence”.

If the
Not Happy John types really want to remove Howard, then its time for an
for an odd mixture of shameless pragmatism to bring as many people
together and then utter ruthlessness in delivering the hardest possible
blow against the Libs in seats like Bennelong, Wentworth and Mayo.

If
people want to bring down the Howard Government, they need to help
Labor do it in the marginals and then run a guerrilla style campaign in the safe seats that would do the Viet Cong proud.

The anger is out there – particularly after last week. All the polls show it.

“John Howard has done us a public service by making us look at our values,” Richard Neville said in his closing comments today.

“We are the Coalition of the Unwilling, and believe you me, our numbers are growing steadily by the day,” Brian Deegan observed.

But are the organisers there? Is the money? The strategists?

It’s
doable, but… And perhaps that’s it. If the Pauline Hanson revolution
was an uprising by ordinary Australians marginalised by a political
class that ignroed them, then the Not Happy John movement is a similar
revolt by a group from the political classes who feel that the values
they entered politics to preserve are being overruled by politics
itself.

Just as Hanson – and the odd Coaltion she gathered – is
now seen as a wakeup call, perhaps the Not Happy John movement will
serve a similar role.

Even
if it fails to change our Prime
Minister, it will at least serve to remind us why the political system
that has created him exists, the values it is supposed to represent,
how widely they are shared and how they have gone very, very wrong.

That will be a start. And then we can get a new PM.

Christian Kerr can be contacted at christian @crikey.com.au