Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Leading a Conservative Party in Australia

How would you lead a conservative party in Australia? Would it simply be a case of governing according to the basic tenets of the term or would this also include governing in your own likeness?

Dr Norman Abjorensen is a lecturer in political science at the Australian National University and author of John Howard and the Conservative Tradition (2008) and Leadership and the Liberal Revival (2007) asked just this in a recent post at Unleashed:

How do you lead a conservative party in Australia? It's not as easy a question as it might sound. The incomparable Robert Menzies had the most novel answer: he founded a party in his own likeness and led it without challenge for 20 years, 16 of them in government. Malcolm Fraser took another road to power. He demonstrated to his followers and the voters alike that he was the toughest and most ruthless warrior of all, and he was. John Howard was also tough, but in a very different way from Fraser. Howard set to work on the cultural front, the first conservative leader to take a close and detailed interest in history, and he set about reshaping Australian nationalism in his own conservative image. Each of the three leaders was successful, but in their own very different ways. And it is in that qualitative difference that we begin to see some of the problems inherent in conservative leadership, such as the need to shape first the party, then the government, and finally the nation in your own image. All three managed this singularly Herculean task, and they had persuaded their followers that they could.
Judging from the comments there seems to be some misunderstandings and possibly illusions in relation to just what conservatives and conservative leadership is means and entails. Dr. Norman also has words on Costello that not all would agree with.

It was a question that Peter Costello never really addressed, and in this failure we can see his fatal political flaw: he never understood the nature of conservative leadership. He merely sat in hope, waiting for the plum to fall into his hands. Leaving aside the fact that Costello never really cemented a close relationship with the public, as evidenced in opinion polls, he simply failed the first test of leadership: he never won the trust of his own party. Costello never enjoyed a significant support base within his own party. At the peak of his popularity in the latter Howard years, he could have counted on no than 27 votes at best out of a party room of more than a hundred.
Read the rest here

How would you lead a conservative party is it as easy as it sounds?

Related reading:

In Search of True Conservatism
Conflicts within Modern Conservatism
Listen up Mr. Turnbull: No time for Conservative - lite
Conservatism as process, not purely ideology
In Defence of Market Forces
At Core Rudd is No Conservative

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