January 31, 2004 | Peter

Goodbye George, Tony and John

Until recently I taught a unit in Futures Studies. One of the things you learn in such a ‘discipline’ is never to predict.
So here is my prediction: before the year is out, George Bush Jr, Tony Blair and John Howard will all be out of office.
But here’s the big caveat: this will only happen as long as no dramatic new event in relation to terrorism occurs in the US, Britain or Australia, or somewhere else but which directly affects one of these nations in a serious fashion.
The obvious connection between these leaders is the War on Iraq. Bush and Howard are right wing leaders who have played heavily on social division, national security and generally the emotion of fear. Blair is a Thatcherite reformist leader of ‘New Labour’, and the only remaining genuine ‘Third Way’ leader, who chose to align himself with the right wing agenda of George Bush because he thought he could influence the actions of the only global hyperpower.
Blair will go because the War on Iraq, the failure to find WMD, the death of David Kelly and even the Hutton Report (and its assault on that bastion of British culture, the BBC), plus a few other domestic maters, make him look like a cynical liar. The fact that he seems to be such a sincere, moral, even religious man only makes it worse. The British public will want shot of him, and the only real question is whether the Labour Party rids itself of him first or the Tories benefit and claim government. I’d bet on the first scenario.
Bush will go because Americans do remember how the last election was won, the American electorate is split but demographic trends are boosting the Democrats, and mainly because after being appointed president, this man who sold himself as a moderate conservative ran the most right wing political agenda in many decades. In doing so he has rejuvenated the Democratic Party, who even now, in choosing the most ‘electable’ candidate, are showing a new found determination to rid themselves and the US of Bush. Kerry, Dean, Clarke or Edwards can all beat Bush.
The fact is, despite a lickspittle mass media, the American public does not like Bush and given a reasonable excuse (read, Democrat alternative), they will dump him.
And that is just about the story for John Howard too. He has only managed to succeed because Labor has been completely incompetent at the national level, and because of the docile compliance of the Australian mass media.
Labor went wrong when, after a decade of dramatic change due to globalisation, the ALP federal caucus dumped Bob Hawke and made Paul Keating leader. Whatever their actual relative strengths, the electorate did not trust Keating and he only won his first election due to the Liberal Party’s Fightback platform. When Keating went in the next election, he was replaced as a matter of course by the next man in line, the right wing, (in ALP terms) competent and nice but very limited Kim Beazley. When he failed, he was replaced by the next man in line, the slightly less right wing, competent and nice but very limited Simon Crean. These honest plodders, leading a divided, fractious party largely bereft of new ideas, were never any match for perhaps the most dishonest prime minister in our history and a compliant mass media. Some of this was the result of structural effects of the ALP winning national government in 1983, a period of marked global change. Much of it was due to long term problems in the way the ALP works that promoted personal power over the good of the party.
Australians voted for John Howard because they saw no alternative, and that lack of enthusiasm was reflected in the rise of The Greens, Democrats and for a while One Nation as well as independents to form a ‘third force’ in Australian politics.
Now the ALP has a real leader in Mark Latham, the ALP is coming awake again and even the media – who do need fresh content – are paying attention. The ALP, which had become increasingly corrupted by personal careerism – a legacy of the fat years under Hawke – has remembered what it is supposed to do and rallied behind Latham. Latham has so far straddled the gap between old Labor ideals and the need for new thinking sucessfully, and applied genuine personal discipline. Success should asist him to keep at it.
Cynics might assert that Bush or Howard might contrive some sort of national security event to shove their electorate back onto fear mode, but the lies about WMD in Iraq have raised the level of scepticism, perhaps even in the media. Not being cynical myself, I’m fairly confident that something like this is unlikely.
So, with a little luck we’ll have new leaders in the US, Britain and Australia by 2005. And in the US and Australia at least, these men will have been elected with a definite mandate to do things very differently.

Posted by Peter at 6:07 pm | Comments (1) |
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1 Comment

  1. Howard win, Bush win. hmmm two wrong out of three so far… Even without a terror attack. Perhaps it’s time that you went back to school.
    Now why has this happened? Well it isn’t because we haven’t got the message that you leftists are putting out. We have heard it loud and clear and most of us have rejected it. Both the ALP and the Democrats have drifted way too far to the left.
    Australia and the US does not lean left. It leans to the right. Sorry but you have it all assbackwards.

    Comment by Matt — November 7, 2004 @ 11:03 pm

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