(Image: Tom Red/Private Media)

The rapid dumping of Liberal adviser Andrew Hudgson is a sure sign the Morrison government is doing some rapid course correction in the way it deals with matters of sexual harassment and more.

Hudgson, who until yesterday was an adviser to Victorian Christian rightist Michael Sukkar, was named by Tasmanian Greens leader Cassie O’Connor as having called her a “meth-head cunt” in public last year.

O’Connor’s snapback serves, in part, as a response to Boothby MP Nicolle Flint’s attempt to put GetUp and Extinction Rebellion in the frame, although whether using parliamentary privilege to ping individual remarks made in the wider world — however vile — will end well for any of us, remains to be seen (irrelevant perhaps, but if the Tasmanian Greens could recruit some actual methhead cunts, they might have a chance in Braddon and Bass again).

But the Libs’ rapid response is something they wouldn’t have done even a week ago. Up to now they’ve luxuriated in the idea that the anger and resolution being expressed in the burgeoning “enough” movement would be confined to the “tertiary-educated”.

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Apparently internal polling suggests it hasn’t been. It’s not surprising that it took polling to convince the Libs the issue would spread beyond the progressive classes.

The party is now substantially composed of culture warriors; they think any social issue is a product of agitation by an elite. The right’s identity is now largely dependent on defining itself against the progressivism — the independent existence of a formation like Thatcherism or neoconservatism is a distant memory.

To concede on the points being made by progressive movements not only surrenders political points; it grants legitimacy to the collectivist ideas about power and social process that undergird progressivism.

Such a concession corrodes classical liberal notions (or fictions) of individual responsibility and blame. For a fortnight the Libs have resisted joining the “enough” conversation because they’ve known they’d be on enemy terrain.

But clearly they now believe there’s no alternative but to make a radical shift in their process. Since this moment began, with Brittany Higgins’ allegation of rape, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been improvising his way through with a mix of personal animus towards every fresh attack and some basic sense that something is going on.

Already things he said only some days ago sound archaic — such as his “what if it was my daughter?” moment. This was an attempt to subsume progressivist notions of gender conflict into conservative familialist notions of mutual protection and love. It doesn’t appear to have worked for them, and it sounded odd from the start.

Hudgson manages to be both pink-cheeked and pasty-faced at the same time. He’s an ideal metaphorical virgin to thrown on a political pyre. The great game in social and cultural politics at the moment is the 30/70-70/30 split, and the 40% overlap.

On a whole series of issues, most of them related to personal and bodily autonomy, Australians break about 70% in the progressive direction. Same-sex marriage, access to abortion, etc, are now secure at those numbers.

Other matters connected with our collective life tend to break the other way — 30-70, the 70% holding a conservative position — on issues such as refugee policy, the retention of Australia Day etc.

That leaves a 30-40% middle to play for. The Libs clearly hoped the “enough” movement could be framed in a way that put the 30-70 split into operation, especially in the case of Attorney-General Christian Porter and the written rape allegations made against him — which he strenuously denies.

Possibly they gained some limited traction on the Porter case, but any attempt to maximise it was swamped by subsequent events. Now they are learning that the “enough” issue is breaking 70-30 for the simple reason that it derives from the politics of direct personal experience, and not from a distant and imposed culture war.

This has most likely been an unwelcome shift in perceptions since a certain type of suburban Christian conservatism has spread substantially through the party in recent years, one which sees — and needs to see — there as being no substantial conflict between men and women in the social order.

This is quite different from Tony Abbott’s Grand Guignol Catholicism. The various forms of Hillsongism spreading throughout the Libs offers a personal religiosity geared not to a cosmic order but to a more individualised one, in which Jesus acts as a sort of career booster, life coach and spiritual Prozac.

That attitude has been responsible for their sluggishness in understanding how challenging these new events would be. But it also offers them some capacity to reappraise where they stand.

This is obviously so for Morrison, whose success in life has clearly been due to the fact that his enemies have successively underestimated him.

Morrison is the son of a cop who ran his own Christian religious sect. It doesn’t get much more patriarchal than that. Yet he worked most of his pre-politics life in tourism, a fairly louche trade.

Morrison either wears his Christian heritage lightly and cynically, or he’s sincere but knows how to mediate with a world he believes to be fallen and corrupt. He appears capable of talking back to his own obsessions in a way that Abbott never was. That may well allow him and the leadership to do what they hate and acknowledge the social reality of a movement that now confronts them.

Certainly Labor would be foolish to see this moment as the deliverance it were waiting for, even with the buck-up of the West Australian result.

Morrison’s initial responses are often clumsy and damaging; his follow-up tends to be calibrated and effective. He may well be able to absorb this reversal, consolidate and reposition.

The fact that the movement is allowing itself to give prominence to Liberal women helps it along in that. The lift-shafting of poor puffy young Hudgson shows it’s determined to do it. And one has the creeping sense that Labor is about to find itself on the other end of the culture war as the revelations multiply.