November 28, 2005 | Graham

Political brands the Pitts

The Pittwater byelection result carries the same lesson for a diverse range of politicians. Peter Costello, Kim Beazley, the Queensland Liberals et al take note – don’t assume that political parties are for ever.
The incidence of Independents has been on the rise for some time. As of yesterday there are now 7 in the NSW Parliament and 5 in Queensland. This is evidence of dissatisfaction with the policies being dished up by the “Laboral” party – One Nation’s apt appellation for the political duopoly.
It is also evidence of the decrease in brand loyalty across society which not only affects political parties, but every other product as well. And it’s more pronounced amongst younger Australians, so things are going to get more difficult as time goes by.
The implication of this is that the entitlement mentality displayed by so many political operators will most likely bring as its reward the failure of their ambitions.
There would have been no Pittwater byelection if the religious right of the NSW Liberals hadn’t targetted John Brogden, destroying his political career and his mental equilibrium. They appeared to assume that the Liberals were going to win the next election because they were the Liberal Party, and therefore it was better to have one closer to their way of thinking than Brogden in charge.
Now they are are even further away from power. Perhaps they ought to listen to God’s not so still small voice and spend less of their time near the organ’s thunder!
Peter Costello and his supporters seem to assume that the leadership of the Federal Liberal Party is something to be inherited by the “next in line”. After this byelection result John Howard will be even more inclined to make him play Prince Charles and bide his time. It will reinforce for him how fragile the Liberal Party’s hold on power, qua Liberal Party, is. Howard understands that his government is held in place by a coalition of voters, unique in recent federal history, of the upper and lower demographics. It’s not one that Costello is likely to be able to retain, and there is a huge risk that he couldn’t find another to replace it.
Kim Beazley too seems to think that “turning up” is all he needs to do to win the next election. As a result the unions (who having seen membership levels halve in 25 years know exactly how fragile brands can be) have been forced to play the role of the unofficial opposition. If it wasn’t for them Howard would have much less trouble over his IR legislation.
Ironically the Queensland Liberal Party’s recent upsurge of internal insanity is driven by huge results in two byelections which they have misinterpreted. The Redcliffe and Chatsworth results were another example of volatility in the electorate, not a portent that Peter Beattie is sure to lose the next election. Having spent $500,000 to win these byelections, Chatsworth by the merest of margins, the Liberal Party organisation appears to be desperate to put the Chatwsorth winner, Michael Caltabiano, in as replacement leader to Bob Quinn. Yet there is no guarantee that without massive expenditure and a byelection atmosphere he can even continue to hold the seat!
As a result they have opened up rifts with the National Party, and made a public spectacle of themselves in fixing preselections for Caltabiano supporters. I can see the political tide ebb against their legs as I write.
Ironically the tendency to think your brand is impregnable appears to afflict opposition parties more than governments. Perhaps you have to be more optimistic to be an opposition. That has implications for the future stability of the Liberal brand more than it does for Labor for the reason that the Liberal Party, despite its dominance at a federal level is, on average across the country, in opposition more than the Labor Party.
Which makes you wonder what might happen to them if they were to lose their federal fiefdom. There could be even more openings for political entrepreneurs in a few years’ time rather than just the odd byelection.

Posted by Graham at 7:26 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

  1. The conventional wisdom about the rise of independents and the decline of the major parties is just bunkum.
    Whilst the Nats and the Libs should very worried about losing seats to independents labor has more to worry about from the greens.
    7 independents (6 in Lib/Nat seats) in NSW
    5 independents (all in Lib/Nat seats) in QLD
    3 independents (all in lib/Nat seats) in SA
    2 independents (both in lib/Nat seats) in Vic
    3 independents (all in lib/nat seats) in NT
    2 independents (both in lib/nat seats) in WA
    3 independents (all in lib/nat seats) in federal parliament.
    so cut the crap about the threat of independents to labor it aint happening.

    Comment by BENDIGO BEN — December 8, 2005 @ 11:09 pm

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