“Howard has left the Coalition in a dreadful situation,” Gerard Henderson writes in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.
“Had Howard announced his resignation at one of the functions held to celebrate the [tenth anniversary of the election of his government], there would have been loud cries of the ‘don’t go’ kind. For people of a certain age, it invariably makes sense to retire while many of your supporters want you to stay.”
But he didn’t. And his media cheerleaders didn’t help. Henderson gets lumped in amongst them, but he is largely innocent. The Albrechtsens, Akermans and Bolts aren’t.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
These people were uncritical cheerleaders. They did nothing to help John Howard.
They were (are?) obsessed with waging the culture wars. That was their fundamental fault.
They savaged “elites” while debating issues that only matter to an elite of Australian society.
They claimed to be articulating mainstream values while choosing to ignore the bread and butter issues that defeated their hero.
They substituted stridency and volume for substance and relevance to genuine debate.
They drowned out more considered and cautious voices from the centre-right and amongst supporters of free markets.
They were noticed. They had their rewards. But towards the end, they panicked and betrayed their hero. Only Akerman stayed true.
These people have nothing to offer a Liberal opposition. They are not natural allies of Malcolm Turnbull. Perhaps some of them will linger on, playing Simon Heffers to Turnbull’s David Cameron, sniping from the right.
But if this is the case we will know for sure that it was all about them, not the cause.