Timothy Stanley of the UK Telegraph reports that Australia has elected a Stephen Harper of their own.
Tony Abbott has won the Australian election – a blow not only to the Australian Labor Party but to Left-wingers everywhere who presumed that he was too “Neanderthal” to win. Well, us Neanderthals will be having a barbie tonight and sculling some beers to celebrate. “Good on yer, mate!”
Abbott won for two reasons. First, the Australian Labor Party is going through a long-term identity crisis. The ALP was once the party of the working man (and Sheila) but in recent years it’s succumbed to the worst aspects of factional politics, becoming a magnet for liberal pressure groups desperate for their slice of the taxpayers’ pie. The party contained plenty of factions in the past but it always managed to steer a sensible middle course between them – so while it was the ALP in the 1970s that established Australia as an outward-looking, Pacific power it was also the ALP in the 1980s that recognised the need for economic reform and rejected protectionism. It’s the party of both Gough Whitlam and Les Patterson.
However, in recent years the Left gained an ascendance over the Right that undid that delicate balance. Under Gillard and Rudd, the ALP “bought” off Australia’s metropolitan elites by embracing issues like gay marriage and the green agenda – the latter threatening the livelihoods of ordinary Australians trying to drill, mine and log their way through the global recession. It invested in silly, expensive projects that turned into giveaways to client companies and unions. And it displayed all of its internal bickering in public, reducing national politics to student union shenanigans. The ALP is now severed from the base that it once represented so well, leaving the ordinary blokes and blokesses looking around for something new.
[…]On the quiet, Abbott has picked up some of the politics that the ALP abandoned. He is said to be a devotee of BA Santamaria, the Catholic thinker who tried to build a Christian Democratic movement that combined social justice and social conservatism. Abbott’s conservatism is plain to see: he rejects doctrinaire environmentalism and favours a far freer and competitive market than the ALP’s clients would ever tolerate. But he also has Santamaria’s concern for social justice: Abbott wants to introduce a scheme that would pay for parental leave to encourage mothers and fathers not only to spend more time with their children but to have more of them, too. Dig beneath that hard man image and you’ll find a politician who is considerably softer and complex. Whereas some Western conservatives seem to be entirely motivated by the desire to win (Romney, Cameron), Abbott has a philosophy and – almost unique in our materialist age – a theology.
This puts him in the George W Bush, Stephen Harper compassionate conservative tradition – the tradition that tends to attract the most votes. For while British Tories might look at Abbott’s politics and language and sneer, they would do well to remember this important distinction. Tony Abbott wins elections; David Cameron has yet to do even that.
Congratulations, Conservative Coalition!
My previous post on Tony Abbott is here, if you want to know more about his policies.