Some naysayers and doom-mongers may declare that, in being out of power in every State and Territory and federally, the Liberals face bleak times.

Fortunately, not everyone is so negative. Some Liberals retain a capacity to look on the bright side of life.

Joe Hockey yesterday hailed Campbell Newman’s retention of the Brisbane mayoralty as an “emblematic moment that indicates that the Liberal Party has reconnected with the community and has built up a core base of support for better government and stronger values in government.”

You may recall the Liberals’ focus on good government and strong values from such incidents as Children Overboard, AWB and the Regional Partnerships program.

Still, even if Newman played down his Liberal connections throughout his campaign, they have to start somewhere.

George “did I mention I’m a QC?” Brandis also lauded his Party’s effort in the Gold Coast council election as “a good thing” and “not a bad result for a first go.”

The Liberals haven’t won a single seat there.

Still, Brandis has a point – next time they’ll be coming off a low base and the only way is up.

What next for the resurgent Liberal Party? School P&C bodies? Local soccer clubs? Too bad VSU obliterated student unions, otherwise the Liberal renaissance could be sweeping through tertiary education even as we speak.

On the strength of this performance, one hopes Brendan Nelson won’t be cancelling the “listening tour” he’s planning to announce tomorrow, along with a five-point policy framework.

Unfortunately for the purposes of brand differentiation, Kevin Rudd has already laid claim to a five-point plan. The options are limited, however – a “six point plan” would look like cheap one-upmanship, while a “four-point plan” would draw criticism of a lack of vision. Sometimes Opposition Leaders just can’t win.

You can’t help but think the Liberals have the whole thing backwards. When Rudd became Labor leader, the ALP set about advertising Rudd himself, introducing him to the electorate, branding him as caring but cautious. There was plenty of images of him playing with The Kids, talking about education, looking serious and can-do.

The policies came later or, in a number of areas, not at all. But that wasn’t the point. Labor understood that specific policies were far less important for voters than feeling safe with Rudd. And they did. NSW Labor managed the same thing in 2005 when they spent heavily to introduce the newly-minted Premier Iemma to voters, to the extent of explaining how to pronounce his name. Obviously they skipped the bit about him being an incompetent hack.

Nelson, however, has let himself be branded by events. His consultative style has been portrayed as weak, and his terrible polling has become the main thing voters know about him. Maybe he should spend part of his “listening tour” doing some talking, so that voters can get to know him better. The policy stuff can wait.

Peter Fray

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