There’s something cruelly apposite about a teenager’s round-the-world solo yacht attempt coming to grief, and the side of another boat, hours in — and Malcolm Turnbull’s furious reaction to Kevin 27’s somewhat partisan take on history at the launch of Paul Kelly’s new book The Parade of Obviousness (or something).
Of course Krudd was taking the piss. Book launches are a chance to get up peoples’ noses, a licence to annoy. Turnbull should have turned it into a joke about the PM’s lack of an off-switch, his inability to think in any way other than the partisan.
Instead, the remarks about a “communist party general secretary” are pure epic fail/own goal/shipping accident. No-one under 45 has much memory of senescent communism — Andropov and Chernenko were gone by ’85, and Gorbachev resembled a smooth western politician — and the only one still around, Kim Jong-Il, was skewered by Team America: World Police (“ronely, I am so ronely …”) years ago.
And anyone who actually does remember the comrades knows that the comparison has no real heft. Either way it doesn’t work. It is so obviously a wrong note that you’d think Turnbull was, well, an American conservative.
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Is this the worst Australian Opposition Leader evuh? He is certainly in the running. He is failing his party on every front. He lacks the skills and appetites to lead an intellectual renovation of Australian liberalism/conservatism, his strategic leadership has been obscure, and his tactical moves have been blunderful to watch.
He gets nothing right, and everything wrong. He has the least aptitude for frontline politics of anyone in recent memory. He is the proverbial leader of Winston Churchill’s mantra on Tory supremos (“if he is a drunk he must be propped up, a philanderer covered up for, etc etc … if he is no good he must be poleaxed”).
Politically, he is a teenager adrift, finding that what looked easy, what he was desperate to get out of the harbour to do, has hidden difficulties related to the presence of other, more considerable vessels
It should be obvious to anyone with a skerrick of political nous that the culture/history/whatever wars, whatever usefulness they once had — and it was once very considerable — are, well, dead in the water. John Howard used them to give him a narrative after Dolly Downer — the man Turnbull is eclipsing with anti-talent — had gone to his epic fail, and they helped construct Keating as an elitist who fiddled with history while Roma burned.
For years after that, they assisted with a certain type of branding. Indeed for a few years we couldn’t really tell how much they mattered — was Howard’s refusal to apologise to aborigines and other such stuff really shifting conservative suburban votes — votes that would other otherwise go to Labor?
We’ll never know. What we know is that none of it mattered once Howard tampered with the IR system. Labor could have proposed compulsory ecstasy in schools and a war crimes trial for Keith Windschuttle and no one would have given a rats’.
If Turnbull really can’t see that there is no front to be opened here — that he has to facilitate the reinvention of a positive Liberal message in the years before the economy starts to grind the gears, and a neoliberal narrative starts to find appeal again — then he’s just gotta go.
It’s great fun to watch, but ultimately it’s just messing about in boats — or sinking ships.