Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A tale of two Liberal parties

In Canada

Stéphane Dion's Liberals are becoming frustrated over their lacklustre start in the election campaign, a lack of coherent message and theme and confusion as to who is in charge. G&M


In Australia

Brendan Nelson was a monkey on the back of the Liberal Party. The party has now shrugged the monkey off. Malcolm Turnbull won the [leadership] ballot.


Canada is in election mode and the Liberal’s are not happy with their leader. Australia isn’t and the Liberal’s unceremoniously dumped their leader. In Canada the leadership selection process is long and laborious, canvassing the party membership across the country, In Australia MPs hold a leaders fate in their hands.


Neither process particularly reflects the will of the people, or delivers satisfactory results. Often, in opposition as both these parties are, leaders are a compromise, filling a gap while stronger leaders jockey for future success. It is about timing.


Just how Dion was foisted onto the party is curious. He is a decent enough character but has all the charisma of a sock full of cold porridge. It is doubtful he was intended as a compromise, when the country has been teetering on an election since their last disastrous showing.


But satisfied or not, Canada’s Liberal’s have to get behind their man now. He is all they have. Unlike other countries, like Australia, Canada resisted the hard swing to conservative economics. A swing from which the world is now reeling as markets allowed their freedom collapse from their excesses.


As the rest of the world swings back to greater regulation Canada’s Conservative government is aching you dismantle the countries surviving regulatory regime. But then the Conservative leader, Harper, is a big fan of former Aussie Liberal PM, John Howard – conservative economics personified.


The Aussie Liberals had selected a relative lightweight, Brendan Nelson, to the leadership, but it couldn’t last. The choice was a compromise and an effort to keep Malcolm Turnbull at bay. Turnbull – John Howard on steroids – would have done well to bide his time and play his market, but he is not a patient man.


Well, thankfully for the country he is not patient. With several years to last before an election Turnbull should well and truly burn himself out. So I guess Malcolm will give some other, still unknown, aspirant a chance to develop


I’m sure, if they ever contemplate Liberal parties, American’s would find the dynamics confounding. For a start, while warm fuzzy is not anathema to liberalism either is hard line conservatism. They tend to be ‘broad church’ or ‘big tent’ groupings.


Howard’s, and now Turnbull’s Australian Liberals is akin to Canada’s Conservatives. Dion’s Canadian Liberals are currently an undefined rabble The major problem for both stems from years of ‘strong’ leadership – the kind that emasculates leadership contenders, leaving the untalented or unacceptable to sort the mess.

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