Why vote for these divided Libs?

Why vote for these divided Libs? By Maurice Newman.

The Liberal Party is in deep trou­ble. It is struggling to regain credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of a justifiably sceptical electorate. Blaming former prime minister Tony Abbott’s recent thought-leadership as materially contributing to its present woes is to trivialise and misread the deep cultural and intellectual differences now fracturing the organisation at so many levels.

Indeed, the Liberal brand is so badly damaged that the party’s survival is in question. Adopting a “nothing to see here” stance signals the party is either out of touch or taking ­voters for fools.

Malcolm Turnbull’s unconscionable acts of treachery in white-anting opposition leader Brendan Nelson and toppling newly elected prime minister ­Abbott have left much bad blood. The political class may think this behaviour is acceptable but it is at odds with community standards and not forgotten. It robs the Prime Minister and the government of moral authority. …

Turnbull argues that the Liberals were never a conservative party and that Menzies had purposely ­rejected traditional conservative politics because, at the time, “the authoritarian right had no ­appeal”. That’s intellectually disingenuous. Menzies abhorred all tyranny and was, at heart, a classical liberal.

Indeed, Menzies’ views are clearly expressed in a 1974 letter lamenting that the “State executive is dominated by what we now call Liberals with a small l — that is to say who believe in nothing, but who believe in anything if they think it is worth a few votes. The whole thing is tragic.”

Menzies would have viewed Turnbull as fitting this description. Turnbull is fashionably left. He’s for big government and ­climate change. He’s drawn to iden­tity politics and same-sex mar­riage, is pro-choice and a repub­lican. Freedom of speech, he says, “will not build an extra road”. On fiscal policy, he argues “it’s better to be fair than in the black”. He supports generous welfare and high wages. He equivocates on IR reform and dereg­ulation. If this is Turnbull’s “sensible centre”, it differs from Labor only at the ­margins. …

Tony Abbott … correctly argues that “the next election can only be won by drawing up new battle lines that give our people something to fight for, and the public something to hope for: To take the pressure off cost of living, let’s stop subsidies for new wind power. To take the pressure off housing, let’s scale back immigration. To get the budget under control, let’s ban new spending. To keep us safe, let’s make sure there are no known jihadis loose on our streets. And to get good government, not gridlock, let’s reform the Senate as soon as we possibly can.”

Abbott’s ideas have broad ­appeal. His is certainly a stronger call to arms than the party’s present battle cry, which, at heart, simply warns voters that the other side would be worse. This overlooks the reality that many born since the 1990s have been edu­cated not to be horrified by the prospect of socialist governments. Indeed, to paraphrase Fraser ­Nelson, a new generation has emerged to whom socialism seems like a new idea — not an old debunked one. And anyway, if you lean to the left, why not vote for the real thing and be done with it?