Tory leadership race: it’s Jeremy Hunt (who?) vs Boris Johnson (yes, really), with the future of the UK at stake


Ben Wellings, Monash University

The United Kingdom will have another prime minister by the end of July, when members of the Conservative party choose between Jeremy Hunt (who?) and Boris Johnson (yes, really).

Aside from the morbid fascination of watching this from afar, this leadership contest matters because it will determine who will (presumably) lead the UK out of the European Union, with or without a deal.

One way or another, this will affect Australia’s future trade relationship with the UK.

Selecting a new Tory leader

Selecting a leader of the Conservative party (or Tories) used to be easy. As late as 2003, a series of potential candidates would be “sounded out” behind-the-scenes by grandees, including lords and senior MPs, to see if they wanted the honour of leading the party (and, as a happy by-product, the country).

As with all leadership positions, not everyone wanted the job. When the men in suits offered Sir Alec Douglas-Home the honour of being prime minister in 1963, he famously replied: “Please, please not me!”

They ignored him and he went on to become one of the least successful prime ministers in British history.




Read more:
Tory leadership race could undermine confidence in UK economy


But the sounding-out process was democratised in 1998 so that the party base could have a say. The process for electing a new leader of the Conservative party is that any or all members of parliament (MPs) can put their hat in the ring. If they gain enough support from fellow parliamentarians, they compete against each other in a series of votes among MPs, until there are only two contenders left standing.

At this point, the party members in the towns and shires (the so-called grassroots members) get to vote on who next becomes leader.

This innovation came at a moment in time when the Conservative membership was becoming highly unrepresentative of the country as a whole. And since the late 1990s, the number of members in the Conservative party is declining, the average age is increasing, and the membership is overwhelmingly white. This has led some people to describe the conservatives as “pale and stale”.

Johnson vs Hunt

This time round there were 10 runners. The field became “pale, male and stale” when the two female contenders, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom, did not gain the required number of votes to progress to the next round.

Eventually we got down to Hunt and Johnson.

Johnson, the former London mayor and foreign secretary, needs no introduction. Yet, despite a campaign mired in controversy about his personal qualities and his avoidance of most TV debates, Johnson was still in front among party members as of late June.

He may scandalise opinion outside the Conservative party, but the grassroots members still rate him. This is partly because he stands for leaving the EU without a deal on Oct. 31, 2019 – an article of faith among Brexit-supporting Conservatives.




Read more:
Why Boris Johnson would be a mistake to succeed Theresa May


In contrast, Hunt, the current foreign secretary, is more measured and presents himself as the more likely of the two candidates to secure a deal with the EU, as Johnson is not taken seriously in Brussels.

What’s working against Hunt, however, is that he voted to “Remain” in the EU in 2016, leading some to call him “Theresa May in trousers”.

Of course, Johnson and Hunt’s respective positions on Brexit matter only so much because no change of leader affects the numbers in parliament. The real question then becomes, will the new leader call – or be forced into – a general election to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit?




Read more:
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt will compete to become the UK’s next prime minister – but could either win an election?


What this means for Brexit

Brexit has radicalised the Tory base, which is broadly in favour of leaving with a no deal (unlike the rest of the country). A no-deal, or hard, Brexit means the UK would leave the EU without any agreements in place to soften the economic shock of leaving its largest trading partner, the EU. This is now Johnson’s stated position.

Underlying this drift towards a hard Brexit is the de-alignment of voters from the two main parties, which has scared the Conservatives.

The success of the Brexit Party and a threat from the resurgent centrist and pro-Remain Liberal Democrats makes these challenging times for party strategists. In fact, the Conservatives are only united in their dislike of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Significantly, neither leadership contender really understands the multinational United Kingdom or seemingly cares about the strain Brexit is putting on the union.

Neither candidate has an answer to the Northern Ireland “backstop” issue, for instance, which seeks to avoid the reestablishment of a political border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland in Ulster (the source of past conflict). And a hard Brexit will see increased support for independence in Scotland.




Read more:
Five constitutional questions the next British prime minister must urgently answer


What’s more, the results of a recent YouGov survey of Conservative party members and their attitudes toward Brexit added more weight to the idea that Brexit is, essentially, an English nationalism movement.

So, in keeping with the permanent state of political misery induced by Brexit, any outcome of the leadership contest and the subsequent UK-EU politics will make almost everyone unhappy.

Both sides feel like they are losing. This is a result of the referendum format; in an election cycle, you at least think your side might have a chance next time.

But deep divisions over Brexit mean that the future of the Conservative party is at stake. Like turkeys voting for Christmas, if Johnson is elected leader, there may not be a next time for either the Conservative party or the United Kingdom.The Conversation

Ben Wellings, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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No matter who wins the election, many Australians think real leadership will be lacking


Samuel Wilson, Swinburne University of Technology; Jason Pallant, Swinburne University of Technology, and Timothy Colin Bednall, Swinburne University of Technology

With the federal election a little over a month away, it appears many Australians have little faith the winners will be able to provide the type of leadership that can change the country in a meaningful way.

According to our recent research, nearly a third (29.8%) of respondents believe that the Coalition shows no “leadership for the public good”, compared to just 5% who believe the Coalition shows such leadership to an extremely large extent.

Labor fared only slightly better – 24.9% of respondents believe it shows no “leadership for the public good”, compared to 7.3% who said it shows it to an extremely large extent.

Our findings revealed that minor parties, the Greens and One Nation, didn’t inspire confidence, either. About a third (32.9%) of respondents believe the Greens show no “leadership for the public good”, while just over half (50.3%) believe the same of One Nation.

Equally concerning is the collapse of Australians’ trust and confidence in their democratic institutions of government.

Just over a quarter (26.3%) of respondents believe that the federal government, as an institution, shows no “leadership for the public good”. This score is somewhat worse than perceptions of state governments (24.6%) and significantly worse than perceptions of local governments (16.2%).




Read more:
What can governments and leaders do when trust evaporates?


The findings come from the initial results of the Australian Leadership Index, a new quarterly survey from the Swinburne Business School that measures and tracks community perceptions and expectations of leadership across 12 institutions in the government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

These results were drawn from two nationally representative surveys of 1,000 Australians we conducted in March.

Taken together, the results provide more bad news for the Coalition in the lead-up to the federal election on May 18.

Accountability and ethics are key

We hasten to add that the disillusionment with the federal government does not extend to voters’ perceptions of the public sector. On balance, voters think the public health and education sectors show leadership for the public good.

This indicates that public disillusionment lies squarely with the people who make the policy, rather than those who implement it.

Consistent with other studies, our findings confirm the importance of transparency, accountability and ethics to perceptions of trust and confidence in leadership.




Read more:
Reforming our political system is not a quick fix. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to do it


From a community perspective, political leadership for the public good occurs when leaders demonstrate high ethical standards, prioritise transparency and accountability even when it could have a negative impact on their administrations, and are alive and responsive to the needs of the people they serve.

In other words, leadership for the greater good is reflected in what value leaders create, how they create this value, and for whom they create it.

Political leaders in Australia are currently lacking on all counts.

For whom is value created?

Our survey results shed light on where the public thinks the federal government is failing to create value and what the community expects of political leaders to serve the greater good.

Notably, creating economic value has no bearing on perceptions of politicians’ leadership for the public good. As former Liberal Party leader John Hewson recently observed, voters now take effective economic management for granted from governments.



The same could be said for the creation of social value through, for example, the provision of social services and the enactment of policies that enable people to flourish.

From the public’s perspective, the creation of social and economic value is essentially “core business” for the federal government.

In order to be seen as showing leadership for the public good, the federal government needs to go beyond business as usual.

What looms largest in the public mind when thinking about leadership for the greater good is how political leaders create value and for whom they create value.

Specifically, politicians need to behave ethically and demonstrate accountability for their actions. Australians have had enough of the opportunistic, short-term game of point-scoring and blame-shifting.




Read more:
Australians’ trust in politicians and democracy hits an all-time low: new research


Moreover, political leaders need to be seen as responsive to the people they serve, in addition to balancing the needs of different groups of stakeholders. Concern about the use of donations to gain access to, and exert influence over, politicians looms large in the public mind.

In the lead-up to the federal election, and in the wake of recent Royal Commissions into banking and religious institutions, it’s the ideal time for Australians to consider the kind of leadership we need for the Australia we want.The Conversation

Samuel Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Management, Swinburne University of Technology; Jason Pallant, Lecturer of Marketing, Swinburne University of Technology, and Timothy Colin Bednall, Senior Lecturer in Management, Fellow of the APS College of Organisational Psychologists, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Michael McCormack fails leadership test in handling of Broad scandal


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It took disgraced Nationals MP Andrew Broad 24 hours after the “sugar baby” story broke to announce the inevitable – that he won’t recontest his Victorian seat of Mallee. They do things slowly in the Nationals.

In Michael McCormack’s case, at glacial pace. The Nationals leader’s handling of the Broad scandal has been appalling. His failure to instantly inform Scott Morrison of a potentially explosive situation – the prime minister only learned of it on Monday – is inexplicable, and must severely strain the relationship between the two men at the top of the government.

McCormack on Monday muddled his account, saying he had only been told “a couple of weeks ago”, when he urged Broad to go to the police over the actions of a woman he met on a “seeking arrangement” website.




Read more:
National Andrew Broad forced to quit frontbench amid ‘sugar baby’ allegation


McCormack’s timetable was blown out of the water within hours by an Australian Federal Police statement that said Broad had referred the matter to it on November 8.

On Tuesday, McCormack’s performance was extraordinary.

He explained his confusion over timing by saying, “I don’t carry around the dates and times of what people tell me”.

He hadn’t informed Morrison at the start because “I don’t tell the prime minister everything about every member of parliament. He’s got enough on his mind at the moment.

“And quite frankly I thought it was a matter for Andrew to sort out with his family. Obviously, I wasn’t aware of the entire extent of what had taken place. I wasn’t made aware of that until yesterday.”

Asked whether he wanted Broad to run for Parliament again, McCormack blathered rather than just saying no.

Any diligent leader would have got to the bottom of the matter at once, extracting the full picture from Broad. Any prudent leader would have briefed the prime minister without delay. Any savvy leader would have known the scandal was likely to leak and that, anyway, Broad’s behaviour showed he was in an untenable position.

McCormack must live in some parallel universe if he ever thought his assistant minister’s account of flying off on an overseas date, which resulted in an apparent move to extract money from him, was just “a personal matter between him and his family”.

Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie said in a statement late Tuesday: “The Nationals are not a party where this standard of behaviour is acceptable”.

Yet McCormack kept Broad on as his assistant minister for weeks. And in his Monday morning statement announcing Broad had resigned from the frontbench, the Nationals leader said Broad “will continue as an effective and hardworking Member for Mallee”.

McCormack’s leadership is only secure because we are so close to an election. He was already under criticism from within his party and his conduct over Broad might have brought on a challenge in other circumstances.

The Nationals, supposed to be a party of family values, have bookended the year with two personal scandals. Barnaby Joyce’s affair with his former staffer, now mother of his son, distracted the Coalition in the early months.

How the Morrison government’s grand tactical plan to overshadow Labor’s national conference went awry! The big story about a surging budget position, promising dollars for tax cuts, was expected to dominate the news.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Morrison goes a bridge too far to outsmart Shorten


As things turned out, the government did squeeze out the Labor coverage – but for the worst of reasons.

Labor’s management plans, in contrast, went as smoothly as clockwork.

Tricky issues, notably border security, were stitched up. Potentially controversial polices, including how broadly a Labor government would allow industry-wide bargaining, have been left for decisions by the leadership later.

Even what seemed the risky course of having Kevin Rudd address the conference – as a gesture of reconciliation and party unity – played out without a hitch.




Read more:
Rudd says Murdoch media is a “political party”


A raid on New South Wales ALP headquarters in Sydney in pursuit of an ICAC investigation into donations was embarrassingly timed but didn’t threaten the narrative at the conference in Adelaide.

The conference was used as a platform for announcements – on housing affordability, the protection of superannuation, the environment, reconciliation, refugees, the pursuit of gender pay equality. There were few votes and only one of them, on a left proposal for a human rights charter, involved a count – the left narrowly lost.

Controversy over signing up to a nuclear weapons ban treaty, on which Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong have different views, was defused by wording that leaves plenty of latitude.

One significant resolution that was passed calls for a Labor government to recognise Palestine, something that various state conferences have been urging strongly.

The role of the unions was proudly acknowledged.

The ACTU secretary Sally McManus told the conference: “The trade union movement is the early warning system for this nation. We are the earthquake sensors in the ocean that feel the tremors before they reach the shores. We are the smoke alarm trying to wake you from your deepest sleep. The siren that makes you look up before it is too late.

“And we are sounding the alarm now. We see the unfairness, we see the fair go being crushed with growing inequality. It is time to listen and to act. And Australian Labor, Bill Shorten, is doing just that.”

It’s notable that in the election for the ALP national executive, the CFMMEU has gone from one representative to two. Its national secretary, Michael O’Connor, is now a member of it. The conference has left open how much the unions will get as Labor unveils more detail of its industrial policy over the coming months.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Liberals adopt new rule to stop the revolving prime ministership


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison has announced a major change in Liberal party rules to
ensure a prime minister who wins an election serves the full term,
unless two thirds of the party decides otherwise.

Morrison said the Liberal party had heard the public and was responding.

The entire party understood “the frustration and the disappointment
that Australians have felt when governments and prime ministers that
they have elected, under their authority, under their power, have been
taken from them through the actions of politicians here in Canberra,”
he said at a joint news conference with Liberal deputy Josh Frydenberg
on Monday night.

This had happened with the Liberal party as well as Labor, Morrison
said. “We acknowledge it and we take responsibility for it.”

The Australian people were “sick of it and we’re sick of it and it has to stop,” he said.

The Liberal party was “willingly and enthusiastically putting this
constraint to return the power of these decisions about who is prime
minister in this country to the Australian people.”

Morrison described the rule change as historic and the biggest in the
74 years of the party’s history.

Frydenberg said: “The changes in Australian prime ministers over the
last decade has diminished the parliament and its representatives in
the eyes of the public. The Liberal party has listened to the
Australian people and the Liberal parliamentary party has responded
tonight.”

Earlier, Liberal members of the ministry approved the new rule, before
it went to an evening special meeting of the Liberal parliamentarians.

Morrison discussed the proposed change with former prime minister John
Howard, but not with Malcolm Turnbull.

He briefed Tony Abbott who was the first speaker from the floor.
Strongly supporting the proposal, Abbott – who lost the prime
ministership before he had served a full term – thanked Morrison for
bringing him into his confidence.

Morrison said the change was carried by consensus. He declined to be
drawn on differences expressed within the meeting.

He said he had asked the party whips, Nola Marino and David Bushby, to
work up a proposal. He’d had a view for some time that something
needed to be done.

The party meeting discussed whether the threshold should be two thirds
or three quarters. There was some questioning about the position of a PM who had the weight of the party against them but was just under the threshold for change.

But speakers who had differences on the detail made it clear they would swing in behind what was finally decided.

The Labor party already has rules that restrain leadership changes
including of an opposition leader, although they could be altered by a
simple majority of caucus.

In August after the ousting of Turnbull, Kevin Rudd urged the Liberals to
follow Labor’s example “to prevent rolling political chaos.”

Howard said then “I don’t think changing the rules is a good idea”, adding “What’s the point of bringing in rules if, in any event, they can be set aside?”

Morrison said the Liberal rule on prime ministers was tougher because
it would take a two thirds majority to alter it. But it does not cover
opposition leaders.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia’s obsession with opinion polls is eroding political leadership



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Malcolm Turnbull’s days were numbered as the Newspoll losses continued to mount.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Ian Cook

In its early days, political opinion polling’s leading advocate, George Gallup, sold it as an essential tool for democracy. He believed polling made for better representation because it allowed politicians to take the people’s “pulse”.

But opinion polling didn’t so much enhance democracy as remake it.

Thanks to Gallup, polls have become so ubiquitous in modern-day politics that we’re now convinced they can accurately predict elections. (Even though Donald Trump’s surprising victory in the 2016 US presidential election suggests otherwise.) Gallup ran his first poll in the US in 1935 and in Australia in 1941.

Since then, opinion polling has changed every liberal democracy by turning politics into a contest between two sales teams trying to synthesise a product they believe voters want and diluting what was once the key role of politicians: to provide leadership.

Polls driving the news cycle

In Australia, this can be seen in the revolving door of prime ministers over the past decade. Polling isn’t the sole reason for this political instability, but it’s played an important part.

Obsessive poll-watching has become standard practice for politicians, as well as the journalists who cover them. This is partly because polls have become news stories in themselves, and not just at election times. A new poll is “news” because it provides the latest measure of the mood of the electorate, which is what everyone wants to know.




Read more:
Election explainer: what are the opinion polls and how accurate are they?


The weekly countdown of Malcolm Turnbull’s losses in the Newspoll is a case in point. Because Turnbull arbitrarily set a threshold of 30 Newspoll losses as his justification to challenge the leadership of Tony Abbott, the media fixated on the same arbitrary threshold during his time in office.

When Turnbull lost his 30th straight Newspoll, the media made it feel like a death knell.

Before Abbott, Julia Gillard was dumped for Kevin Rudd because internal Labor polling predicted he could swing crucial votes Labor’s way and save the party from a disastrous defeat in the 2013 election.

In her parting shot to her party, Gillard made clear what she felt had contributed to its decline in leadership:

…real thought has to be given to how to make any leadership contest one in which candidates have to articulate why they want to lead Labor and the nation. … The identification of the top new ideas – not just who is top of the opinion polls.

As soon as Scott Morrison was picked to replace Turnbull, all eyes turned again to the polls to see how the electorate would respond.

In the latest Newspoll, the Coalition had closed the gap with Labor somewhat, but still trailed overall 46-54%. The Fairfax-Ipsos poll showed similar numbers.

The slightly good news for Morrison: he led Bill Shorten as better prime minister 45-32%. But as many commentators have pointed out, this isn’t much of an improvement on where Turnbull was a few weeks ago.

So, not much has changed for the Liberals and it appears not much will – they’re stuck with Morrison now. Some are probably asking themselves now if the spill was worth it, particularly with so many marginal seats in play in the next election and the Coalition sitting on a one-seat majority.

The impact on decision-making

A less visible effect of polling has been the impact it’s had on conversations inside the major parties.

In some regards, policymaking is no longer based solely on a leader’s principles and what the party stands for. It’s about which policies are most likely to keep the party ahead in the opinion polls.

It’s becoming increasingly unlikely for the inner core of senior politicians who run the parties to push through a necessary, but unpopular, policy with the goal of changing the minds of voters who don’t agree with it.




Read more:
How political opinion polls affect voter behaviour


Take Australia’s contentious asylum seeker policy, for instance. Following record numbers of boat arrivals in 2012, many polls were taken to gauge the public’s opinion on the Gillard Labor government’s handling of the issue.

The results showed a high degree of confusion. As many as one in five respondents reported uncertainty in a number of surveys. When that happens, a minor change in a poll’s wording can shift the results in major ways.

But those who wanted to turn back the boats were far more entrenched. In a 2012 survey by the Scanlon Foundation, 26% of respondents favoured “turning the boats back” as a solution to the crisis. Other polls showed that voters overwhelmingly blamed the government for the impasse.

There was an opportunity for our leaders to step in with a solution that would bring together the 74% of people who didn’t support a “turn back the boats” policy.

But faced with negative headlines and an unhappy electorate – only 6% of respondents in the Scanlon survey thought the government was doing a good job on asylum seeker policy – it was far more expedient for the government to take a hard line than to craft and sell a more nuanced approach that would address people’s concerns and provide a more humane outcome for asylum seekers.

Potential problems with polling

Another troubling aspect of polls is that the numbers are less real than they are made to look. Hard as they try, pollsters are increasingly having a harder time finding a representative sample of people to survey.

According to Cliff Zukin, the former president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, election polling is nearing a crisis:

Two trends are driving the increasing unreliability of election and other polling in the United States: the growth of cellphones and the decline in people willing to answer surveys.

The Pew Research Centre, for example, reported that 36% of those called in the US would agree to be polled in 1997 and only 9% agreed in 2016.

Many pollsters believe that IVR (interactive voice response), or robopolling, is the future. This automated software allows pollsters to make a higher volume of calls to compensate for the higher numbers of
hang-ups. Robopolling is also much cheaper.




Read more:
US election: how did the polls get it so wrong?


In Australia, Newspoll stopped surveying people by landline phones in 2015 and shifted to a mixed methodology of robopolling and online surveys. The new Newspoll was found to be less prone to random fluctuations, but appeared to lean a little to Labor, relative to other polls.

Ipsos still relies on live phone polling, both land lines and mobiles. While Ipsos’ polling results are generally well-regarded, some analysts have found them to underestimate Labor and overestimate the Greens.

Despite all these questions about the accuracy of polls in the mobile phone era, however, they did appear to provide an accurate prediction of the 2016 general election in Australia.

While this is perhaps reassuring, it will only continue to fuel their appeal. As journalist Gay Alcorn put it, Australia’s obsession with polling is not only dispiriting, but corrupting for our politics:

What’s sad is that we know it, but find it impossible to rise above it.The Conversation

Ian Cook, Senior Lecturer of Australian Politics

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Just a regular Joe (or Bill or ScoMo): how our leaders work hard at being ‘ordinary’



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Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

Is it sufficiently dignified to call a prime minister, as distinct from an immigration minister or treasurer, ScoMo? Is this part of Scott Morrison’s “ordinary bloke” persona? It does sound a bit like Joe Shmoe, which Wikipedia tells me means “no one in particular” and “is one of the most commonly used fictional names in American English”. But it also sounds a bit Hollywood, evoking JLo.

So it may well be the kind of game that virtually every politician with serious leadership aspirations has to play. They need to convince us that they are not so far above us that they are out of touch. (“How much is a litre of milk, Prime Minister?”) Yet when they do present themselves as just like us, we can’t really take them seriously. We do, in the end, expect our leaders to be different.

Each leader plays the game differently. William Shorten is, of course, Bill – who tweeted about doing the shopping with his young daughter on Father’s Day.

Minus the shopping trolley, Robert Menzies and Robert Hawke were both Bob, and William Hughes and William McMahon were Billy. Curtin was Jack to his mates but John to the public. Chifley was Ben to all, and the unassuming Lyons was happy enough with Joe. It was hard to do much with Gough or Paul, and Malcolm Fraser only became Mal when he was being ridiculed. Everyone knew he was no Mal, and nor was Turnbull. “Johnny Howard” was almost never complimentary, especially when preceded by “Little”, and Kevin might have been from Queensland and here to help, but he never became Kev – not even when worrying over the shaking of sauce bottles – any more than Julia became Jules.

Politicians have long fretted over these matters. When Stanley Melbourne Bruce became prime minister in 1923, he issued a note to the press:

Mr Bruce would be very glad if the newspapers would not refer to him by his Christian name, as Mr Stanley Bruce, but always as Mr S.M. Bruce.

Today’s journalists, cartoonists and comedians – to say nothing of one’s political opponents – would be in raptures if a newly minted prime minister issued such a notice. And it was clearly unthinkable that the golf-playing, spats-wearing Bruce would be just plain Stan.

Here is a reminder that there is more than one way of performing the role of Australian prime minister. The late political psychologist Graham Little used to give a set-piece lecture on political leadership at Melbourne University, whose major details I can still recall 30 years later – so it must have been good.

Little thought there were broadly three types. Margaret Thatcher was a “strong leader” – the children’s TV program that demonstrated the style was Romper Room. Boys wore boys’ clothes and looked like boys. Girls wore girls’ clothes and looked like girls. Miss Helena dressed conservatively and had a mirror through which she could keep an eye on us at home. Moral codes were strictly defined, with the help of Mr Do Bee (“Do be an asker. Don’t be a help yourself”). Good conduct included being able to walk around with a basket balanced on your head.

“Inspiring leadership” was exemplified by Gough Whitlam – and Play School. Each, in turn, went out of their way to demonstrate good, inclusive citizenship, and creative, inclusive play, yet without pretending to become an ordinary citizen, or an ordinary child.

Like Miss Helena, Play School leaders were grownups. But unlike her – and like Whitlam – they spoke to their audience of children as intelligent equals, dressed a bit like kids (possibly in overalls, not skirts, for women) and played along with them rather than laying down the law. Big Ted was a more gentle soul than Mr Do Bee – who presumably had a sting. Gender differences are more frankly acknowledged, but explored rather than taken for granted.




Read more:
What kind of prime minister will Scott Morrison be?


And then there were “group leaders”, like Bob Hawke – and Humphrey B. Bear. Humphrey, seemingly male yet somewhat ambiguously defined, runs around without trousers (any resemblance here to an Australian prime minister, living or dead, being purely coincidental). He is also a child, not an adult, and to this extent he shares a common identity with his audience. But they are not entirely deceived: Humphrey’s not really the same as the kids watching at home. In short, he’s rather like Hawke, who at his best convinced us that he was one of us even while being unmistakably “special”.

Not all have even attempted this balancing act. Neither Bruce nor Menzies ever pretended to be everyman, although Menzies occasionally pointed to his humble origins as the son of a country storekeeper. Keating barely made the effort; his adoption of Collingwood Football Club when he became prime minister was widely ridiculed for its cynicism, coming as it did from a man whose interests ran more to classical music and French clocks.

Malcolm Turnbull’s leather jacket, never entirely convincing, did not survive his elevation to prime minister. His persona in the job more resembled a Renaissance Florentine merchant-statesman – albeit without the art or culture, which may well have been Turnbull’s major concession to the common folk.

Like Keating, the very Sydney-ish Morrison is looking south for an AFL club, and he has cultivated what journalist Phillip Coorey calls a “daggy ordinariness”. But his everyman act is already running up against his evangelical Christianity. The classic Australian plain man is not an evangelical.

Russel Ward sketched the “the typical Australian” most influentially in The Australian Legend 60 years ago. He is, Ward writes, “sceptical about the value of religion and of intellectual and cultural pursuits generally”. The latter certainly fits Morrison, but not the former.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Worst reaction to midterm PM change in Newspoll history; contrary polls in Dutton’s Dickson


That said, he leads Shorten as preferred prime minister in Newspoll. It is worth pausing to ask why Shorten, former Australian Workers’ Union leader, has never been able to break through as a personally popular figure. He has clearly modelled aspects of his career on Hawke, but no one would ever accuse him of possessing Hawke’s charisma. He will never approach his stratospheric approval ratings. Perhaps there are too many stories around of his cosy relations with filthy rich businessmen.

He became a national figure on the back of his media profile during the Beaconsfield mine disaster and rescue in Tasmania in 2006, and he campaigned most effectively in the 2016 election. Yet he often seems wooden in front of a camera, as distinct from when talking with ordinary voters. On the couple of occasions I’ve witnessed him deliver prepared speeches, he was engaging if not magnetic, and improved as he warmed to the message he was delivering.

Hawke moved in similar business circles to Shorten, and had his deficiencies as both a public speaker and parliamentary performer. But he was brilliant if unpredictable in a TV interview, before he cut the drinking and learned better to control his temper. His media image in the 1970s, while ACTU president, overwhelmed any popular suspicion that he was in the pockets of the top end of town, although there was a growing chorus of complaints about rich mates during his prime ministership.

Shorten, much more than Hawke, has been damaged by the perception of backroom dealing; with bosses, while a union leader, and over the internecine warfare within the Labor Party. Voters might have a sneaking respect for his doggedness – think John Howard – but they don’t love him and probably never will. Nonetheless, they may well elect him.The Conversation

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Media power: why the full story of Murdoch, Stokes and the Liberal leadership spill needs to be told



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Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is notorious for meddling in politics.
AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

The first German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, said there were two sights the public should not see: the making of laws and the making of sausages. To this list of enduringly nauseating spectacles we should add one more: the political machinations of media moguls.

ABC political editor Andrew Probyn has skilfully violated this standard of public taste by laying out what look like very plausible entrails of the evident involvement of Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Stokes in the recent Liberal Party leadership spill.




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It is impossible to independently verify Probyn’s account because he has been careful to mask his sources. But it is plausible partly because some elements are corroborated by separate reports in the Australian Financial Review and Sydney Morning Herald, partly because Probyn worked for both Murdoch and Stokes for lengthy periods and may be assumed to have good contacts in those places, and partly because there is circumstantial evidence to support some of what he says.

The Australian reports that Stokes has denied having communicated with Murdoch over Turnbull’s leadership. Interestingly, however, the newspaper does not quote its own proprietor on the matter, which is the obvious way to corroborate Stokes’s claim.

Murdoch, of course, is notorious for meddling in politics. In Australia, it can be traced back to his endorsement of Gough Whitlam at the 1972 election, his campaign against Whitlam in 1975, which was so virulent even his own journalists held a strike in protest, his support for John Howard in 1996, his somewhat ambivalent support for Kevin Rudd in 2007 and his full-frontal support for Tony Abbott in 2013.

Front page of the The Sun newspaper, April 11 1992.
Wikicommons

These campaigns were all in support of the winning side, and much the same has been true of his equivalent campaigns in the UK and the US. After John Major led the British Conservative Party to victory in 1992, Murdoch’s London Sun newspaper proclaimed in a front-page banner headline: “It’s the Sun wot won it”.

All this has created a perception of Murdoch as political kingmaker, a perception that frightens the life out of politicians and thus confers great power on Murdoch.

But as two Australian scholars, Rodney Tiffen and David McKnight, have persuasively argued in their separate studies of Murdoch, while his media outlets routinely shred and humiliate their political targets, the evidence is that Murdoch observes which way the wind is blowing and then finds a rationale for endorsing the likely winner.

The Economist’s Bagehot column was on to this 15 years ago, as Tiffen records. Referring to the London Sun’s boasting of its political power, the column observed:

[T]hat probably says more about Mr Murdoch’s readiness to jump ship at the right time than about the Sun’s ability to influence the votes of its readers.

Even so, perceptions can swiftly harden into political reality.

According to Probyn, when Murdoch was seen to turn against Turnbull over the past couple of months, the alarm went off in the prime minister’s office.

This is where Stokes, chairman of Seven West Media, is said to have entered the picture.

He is a friend of Turnbull’s and they are said to have discussed the apparent campaign by the Murdoch media to oust the prime minister.

Stokes and Murdoch have a chequered history, to put it mildly. They have fought long, bitter and costly legal battles, but as Margaret Simons says in her biography of Stokes:

In the cosy club of media, neither love nor hate lasts forever. The only constants are power, money and self-interest.

So, according to accounts by Probyn and the Financial Review, Stokes rang Murdoch to ask what was going on and Murdoch is said to have told him: “Malcolm has got to go.”

But on the question of who should replace him, the moguls were all over the shop.

Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph was touting Peter Dutton. Three days later, when Turnbull spilled the leadership positions, Dutton nominated, lost, but lit the fuse for the ultimate detonation of the Turnbull prime ministership.

Stokes was opposed to Dutton for complex reasons, but didn’t seem to know who to go for instead. On the day before the leadership spill, his newspaper, The West Australian, was promoting Scott Morrison. The next day it was promoting Julie Bishop, a West Australian.

This shambolic confusion among the moguls is comforting in a perverse kind of way, because in the end neither of them was able to dictate the outcome.

Murdoch achieved one objective – the ousting of Turnbull – but Dutton, his preferred pick to replace him, is now clinging to political life by a single vote in the House of Representatives thanks to the hovering spectre of the Constitution’s section 44 (v), not to mention trouble with au pairs.

Stokes? Well, he is new to this kingmaking caper. He clearly did not want his friend Turnbull out, but when that became inevitable, he didn’t know where to turn. As my old editor at The Age, Creighton Burns, was fond of saying, he was caught between a shit and a shiver.

The net effect of their efforts has been to bring the Liberal-National government to the brink of disintegration within months of a general election.

This time, Murdoch may have indeed created a winner – Labor leader Bill Shorten – not by the traditional means of showering support on him, but by destroying his opponents, even though they happen to be Murdoch’s own ideological allies.

It is the latest chapter in a long and discreditable history of media proprietors using their power to advance their political ends, usually for commercial rather than ideological purposes.

Sir Frank and Kerry Packer did it; so did successive generations of Fairfaxes. In 1961 the Fairfaxes went so far as to virtually run Arthur Calwell’s campaign out of the company’s executive offices on the 14th floor of its newspaper mausoleum in Sydney’s Broadway. The Sydney Morning Herald’s journalists renamed it the Labor ward in honour of the exercise.

In Britain, the mould for the politically meddling modern newspaper proprietor was set by Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) in the early 20th century.

He and the other mighty British press baron of the time, Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook), were the inspiration, if that is the word, for Rudyard Kipling’s celebrated condemnation:

[The press exercises] power without responsibility: the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.

So Probyn has done Australian democracy a service by exposing the entrails of what looks like another abuse of media power, even if it makes for a nauseating public spectacle.

It also raises serious questions about media accountability.

Australia has never had a publicly trusted or effective system of media accountability. All attempts to create one have been howled down, the loudest and crudest voices belonging to Murdoch’s lieutenants.




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There is already a crisis in people’s faith in democratic institutions. A new report by the Australian Museum of Democracy and the University of Canberra shows only 41% of Australians are satisfied with the way democracy is working. That is a dramatic plunge from the 86% recorded in 2007.

In this climate of disenchantment, it is not surprising there are now calls for a public inquiry into the way Murdoch and Stokes have evidently played a manipulative role in changing the prime minister.The Conversation

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer says Liberals were ‘subject to threats’ in leadership battle


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Liberal party row over bullying has deepened, with the Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, declaring that MPs endured threats and intimidation during the leadership crisis.

At the same time a Liberal backbencher, Lucy Gichuhi, has flagged she is willing to out people when parliament resumes next week. She said she could not do it outside parliament but was “absolutely” willing to do so under parliamentary privilege.

O’Dwyer told the ABC the bullying was a longer term problem, and also pointed to “elements in the party organisation”.

The issue of bullying, in particular against female Liberals, flared when Victorian marginal seat holder Julia Banks cited it in her decision not to recontest the election. Another Liberal woman, senator Linda Reynolds, also highlighted standover tactics.

O’Dwyer said she’d had “conversations with many members of parliament, both male and female, and it is clear to me that people were subjected to threats and intimidation. And bullying.

“But that isn’t just over the course of the last week. There are some people who have raised concerns about elements within the party organisation,” she said.

Asked whether she had ever been bullied or threatened by her colleagues O’Dwyer said, “There have been people in the organisation that have tried”.

She rejected those who, in response to the Banks statement, had said Banks and other complainants needed to toughen up.

“Frankly, I’m a bit disgusted by that. Julia Banks is no petal. She’s no snowflake. And no princess”, O’Dwyer said, pointing to Banks’ “stellar legal career” and her being the only member of the government to win a seat off Labor in the 2016 election.

“There’s no question that politics can be robust,” O’Dwyer said. “Just as there’s no question that other careers can be robust. If you play Australian Rules football, it’s a robust sport, but we do not say it is at all acceptable for someone to punch you in the head behind play”.

O’Dwyer said Scott Morrison in the party room on Tuesday would make it clear he “has no truck with bullying.”

“He will set the standard and bullying is certainly not something that he will accept.”

She said there always needed to be an independent process if people wanted to make a formal complaint, but a lot did not want to do that.

Gichuhi said she would tell of her experience not only with the spill but more generally, “because this is a culture, this is a systematic kind of issue. I will say from when I joined the Liberal Party, from when I joined politics – and how, what, where I think would be construed or would fit the definition of bullying.”

She told the ABC she saw the intimidation used against others. “I had senators and ministers in tears. You know, that’s how hard it was. One of my colleagues was in tears the whole day.”

Gichuhi, who joined the Liberal party from the crossbench, was pushed in the recent preselections into an unwinnable position on the South Australian Senate ticket.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Political leadership cannot be disentangled from collective psychology


Andrew Frain, Australian National University

Much has been made recently of the revenge motives of Tony Abbott, and the seemingly self-defeating choices of the Liberal Party room in changing our prime minister from Malcolm Turnbull to Scott Morrison.

While these may be partially true, such narratives are a distraction from what’s really at the heart of events like Turnbull’s fall from office: intergroup dynamics.

Research into collective psychology helps us understand the forceful resistance to Turnbull as leader, and why the Liberal Party reaction in some ways has been perfectly rational.




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The importance of collective psychology

Journalist Annabel Crabb’s recent analysis points out that Turnbull’s lack of acceptance by the conservative wing of the Liberal Party of Australia was his undoing.

Her interpretation was that the conservatives succumbed to irrational fear; that a better approach may have seen Abbott and his colleagues appreciate the concessions that Turnbull made (such as shifting policy on the National Energy Guarantee), look past superficial differences, and bury the hatchet.




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Such analyses are fed by the common belief that individual realities and individual motivations primarily drive actions. The truth is the opposite: collective psychology is central to who we are, and powerfully influences motivation.

It starts with basic cognitive psychology – humans need to translate the things we encounter into concepts. We do this through a process called cognitive categorisation.

Put simply, we class things together, and contrast those things with other things. Whatever it is – whether chairs, tables, pens, or cars – the way we understand the world is by constructing cognitive categories.

The field of collective psychology takes this further, and shows how cognitive categories are also the way we understand people – including ourselves.

If we want to understand who we are, then we categorise ourselves. Sometimes that’s as unique individuals (“I” contrasted with “others”), while at other times it’s as members of social groups (“us” contrasted with “them”).

Leadership and social identities

Obvious examples of inclusive cognitive categories include sporting teams, nationalities, fandoms, and occupations. Cognitive categories of this type are termed social identities.

There is growing evidence that social identities are key to organisational commitment, influence, charisma, and trust. And that understanding social identities is a core characteristic of leadership.

Social psychologists have long argued that human motivation needs to be understood in light of social identities.

Yes, sometimes we are motivated by self-interest, seeking to do better for ourselves as individuals. Other times, however, we are motivated by collective interest: first and foremost, we care about our group.

Social identities in politics

The subgroups of an organisation, not the organisational itself, are often what is most important to people. Abbott, Dutton, and their allies are members of the conservative wing of the Liberal Party. This wing has a passionate membership, and has values and beliefs that it holds dear.

Who is Turnbull to this audience? Turnbull is the person who plucked the mantle of prime minister from its champion of the conservative movement. Turnbull reduced the government majority to a sliver. Turnbull enthusiastically oversaw the legislation of gay marriage and has well-known sympathy for climate change concerns.

Yes, when the 2018 spill happened the Liberal Party was in power, and might have won the next election. However, under continued Turnbull leadership, what prospects were there for growing conservative influence?

If the Liberal Party was to win the next election under Turnbull, this might serve to legitimise the moderate take on the party. Better perhaps to take the reins, loose the next election, but have the platform to reinvigorate the conservative movement across Australia.

Overall, there are legitimate explanations to see Turnbull as an outsider who would not advance the values of those he sought to lead. But we can only appreciate these as legitimate if we recognise the reality of social identities.

It’s social identities – here, a strong sense of “we conservatives” – that make it logical to face immediate personal hardship for the sake of a longer term collective goal.




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Ignore collective psychology at your peril

In time, a dominant description of events will emerge. Many now talk of recent events as if a soap opera.

We hear of the retribution motives of Abbott, the cunning of Turnbull, and the jostling and scheming of the party room. And that maybe Morrison knew what he was doing all along.

These are stories of individuals pursuing individual ends, responding to base individual urges – an idea summarised well by Barnaby Joyce:

Do you think that human nature has changed that much? It’s called ambition. It’s called ego. It’s how it works.

Possibly, but these perspectives are also convenient. They are convenient because they allow unsympathetic voices to deny, as much to themselves as anyone else, that the conservative movement is a sincere, coordinated, and powerful force in Australian politics.

Why can we indulge in this denial? In part, it’s because collective psychology isn’t sufficiently respected. It’s taken as optional; we can accept or ignore its presence to our heart’s content.

That denial blinkers us severely. Without it, we can’t properly understand, and anticipate, the commitment to a cause that humans are capable of.

The conservative wing may burn the Liberal Party to the ground if it’s no longer a vehicle for success. How the social identities of the Liberal Party are managed will determine whether that occurs or not.


Brigadier Nicholas Jans (Ret’d) OAM, PhD contributed to writing this article.The Conversation

Andrew Frain, Teaching Fellow, Strategic Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Party leaders need to address federal parliament’s intolerable workplace culture: Phelps


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

High-profile activist Kerryn Phelps, who is considering whether to join the battle in the Wentworth byelection, has condemned federal parliament’s toxic political culture and called on all major party leaders to address it.

As the fallout from Liberal MP Julia Banks’ condemnation of bullying continues, Phelps told The Conversation: “Some of the behaviour in the Australian parliament of late would not be tolerated in any other workplace”, saying it seemed to have gotten worse. This made for an unhealthy workplace which was ill-suited to getting the best performances from MPs.

Phelps, a City of Sydney councillor who was very active in the same-sex marriage debate, practices as a GP in the Wentworth electorate, and could be expected to attract a substantial vote if she ran as an independent.

The seat, formerly held by Malcolm Turnbull, who had a strong personal vote, is on a 17.7% margin but the Liberals are worried about a big protest vote.

The fallout from the leadership coup is already being felt there with Turnbull’s son Alex encouraging people to donate to the campaign of Labor candidate Tim Murray.

The younger Turnbull tweeted: “Best bang for the buck you’ll get in political donations in your life. Tight race, tight margin for government, big incremental effect whatever happens. If you want a federal election now this is the means by which to achieve it.”

While the focus in the bullying debate last week was on women, Phelps said some men suffered equally and “don’t perhaps get recognised in terms of the emotional cost [to them].”

She said the “toxic nature of parliament as a workplace” needed to be addressed, and she rejected the message sent by some Liberal players that people should toughen up or, in the words of backbencher Craig Kelly, “roll with the punches”.

If any business leader said “just toughen up”, they wouldn’t be there for long, Phelps said.

She said that a quantitative improvement in the political culture had to be generated by the leaders of the large parties. “You have to have the leaders of the major parties draw a line in the sand,” and say that bad behaviour would not advance people’s careers. At present, the opposite seemed to be the case, she said.

Earlier on Sunday, Labor frontbencher Clare O’Neil said “there’s a level of aggression, of conflict, of egocentrism that dominate parliament house and I think that that is quite hard to handle”, in particular for women.

O’Neil, spokeswoman on financial services, told the ABC her experience as an MP was “that there’s increasingly a culture in Canberra and in parliament house that feels really toxic”.

Attention is coming on the Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer, who issued a general statement last week condemning bullying, to take a stronger stand. O’Dwyer is expected to say more this week.

Some current and even former Liberal MPs women are reluctant to speak out for fear of blowback.

Labor has had its own controversy centred on one of its female MPs: Emma Husar has said she will not run again, after allegations of her bullying staff and other misbehaviour. A Labor inquiry upheld some allegations but not others.

Labor’s spokesperson on women, Tanya Plibersek, said that while the way parliament worked was adversarial, debates should be conducted with decency and respect.

“A positive culture is critical, and each one of us has the duty to help foster that both within parties and across the parliament.

“I believe the closer the parliament reflects our community – a more equal representation of women and men, and a greater diversity of backgrounds – the better that culture will be.

“I actually think something that really helps is more people working on issues in a bipartisan way, for example on committees,” Plibersek said.

Meanwhile, Christine Forster, Tony Abbott’s sister, has dropped out of the race for Liberal pre-selection for the Wentworth byelection.

She said in a statement the commentary about her candidacy “has focused on the suggestion that it was a proxy for division within the Liberal party. That is not the case, but to avoid any such perception, I will be standing aside and giving my full support to the successful candidate.”

Forster had not been regarded a frontrunner in the contest, which is considered to be between a former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, and Andrew Bragg, who was briefly acting Liberal federal director.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.