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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

After-dark pundits want to push the Liberals further right. Let them

After-dark pundits want to push the Liberals further right. Let them

f the News Corp hacks had their way, the Liberal Party would never win back its heartland. Doesn't sound so bad, does it?

Guy Rundle writes in Crikey

The proposition that’s been put out by the right, in the wake of its shellacking, is that the Coalition lost because it pandered to the teals in the inner cities. It should have been going to the suburbs and the fringe urban areas, the argument goes, where voters would be waiting in droves, so long as it returned to the sort of policies — no climate change nonsense, more coal and “cheap” energy, no trans girls in sports — that had elected the Abbott government. The National Party, after all, retained all of its seats.

A lot of this stuff is coming out of Sky after dark, this extraordinary tele-Pravda that unspools nightly, four hours of News Corp hacks agreeing with each other over false hearty laughter. They’re on a motza I guess, but God knows how they do it. The boredom and futility of it waft right out of the screen.

There is an argument there (though most of it is factional internal warfare), but the logic of it is desperately twisted. The dark right looks to the National Party for an example, yet simultaneously raves about how great it was for the Liberals to lose half a dozen heartland, heirloom seats. The Nationals succeeded by keeping all of theirs. By contrast, the Liberals talk of simply transferring its ideological centre to the ‘burbs, most of which are now enemy territory.

What seats are these people talking about? Well, in somewhere like Melbourne, not Labor ultra marginals, because there are none left. There’s one Labor marginal left: McEwan on 53/47. There’s five Labor seats on 57/43 (an 8% swing required), seven around 61/39 (12% swing) and six beyond 63/37 (14%+). If this is the new Liberal heartland, it’s going to be a while in construction.

Of course it’s even worse than that. Of the Liberals’ remaining eight seats — eight seats! — in Victoria, four are more marginal than Labor’s only marginal, McEwan. Of the other four, none are held at greater than 60/40. If the Liberal Party moves right, then Aston, Deakin and Menzies — eastern suburbs seats filling up with young professionals — could all go to Labor, or to suburban centrist independents (Cyans? Violets? I dunno). With no reason to expect gain elsewhere.

The obvious point is that, on the numbers alone, it’s a better bet to try and reconstruct the party in a hmmm-liberal direction, so it can be competitive in — hear me out on this — seats it usually wins. But if the darkists can take it rightwards for their internal factional purposes, and leave it there, they could take the non-LNP Liberal Party down to 15 seats, and we are there for it. We want it darker.

Guy Rundle is correspondent-at-large for Crikey. He is also an associate editor at Arena Quarterly and contributes to a variety of publications in Australia and the United Kingdom.

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