The Australian Labor Party lost with no direction home

The Australian Labor Party lost with no direction home, by Troy Bramston.

More than four months since failing at the unlosable election, Labor remains shell-shocked. MPs are in a daze wondering why they are in opposition. There are growing reservations about Anthony Albanese’s listless leadership. There has been no major change in policy direction or political strategy. The party is ignorant, inert and increasingly irrelevant. …

There is no agreement yet among review team members as to why Labor lost the election. They are still sifting through a multitude of reasons and trying to apportion the right weight to them: leadership, policies, campaign organisation, polling failures, advertising, social media and even that old chestnut, “the Murdoch media”. Really. …

All that name-calling and insulting bears fruit:

A detailed demographic analysis of the party’s loss of support makes for sobering reading. The party’s primary vote of 33.3 per cent is disastrous. The standing of Labor in Queensland is especially troubling for the reviewers. Labor received only 26.6 per cent of the vote and was reduced to a rump of just six out of 30 seats.

There is evidence that, across time, Labor has lost voters on its left flank to the Greens and on its right flank to the Coalition and minor parties. Labor did better in inner-city and metropolitan seats but suffered huge swings against it in the outer suburbs and regions. The Coalition’s support increased in seats where there were more unemployed and less educated voters. Labor’s blue-collar base is deserting the party. …

When the party is attracting just one-third of the vote, its future as a viable political force, and indeed the historic Labor project itself, is in question. …

Labor is paralysed by the election. It is struggling to understand why it has won a majority of seats at only one election (2007) in 26 years and is therefore clueless about how to change. The party remains in the grip of an identity crisis, unsure of who it represents, what it stands for or what it wants to achieve in the 21st century.

The ALP used to champion the working class against the big end of town. But it especially represented smart members of the working class, and its policies really favored them. So there was free university education, general increased social mobility, and a great expansion of lucrative government jobs for the smart lefties.

By the 1980s the smart lefty set were moderately wealthy and had rather moved on from the deplorable working class. Education and meritocracy tend to mean that those further down the income ladder or doing the less “interesting” jobs are necessarily, on average, not as good at doing tests in school. The smart lefty set had broken out of the working class, and thought themselves rather clever and deserving. They are a self-made group who worship their own creator.

By 1990 they had moved on from championing the middle class. The fall of the Berlin Wall sealed the fate of too much socialism and their old economic ideals of sharing. Now wealth accumulation and property appreciation in nice suburbs was very good indeed. They are the new rich, thanks to government and politics.

So what to do? I remember ALP circles that sat around in the 1990s and literally pondered that question. I saw it, first hand. Well, they couldn’t really think of anything. More privileges and rights for themselves always sounds good, so the various identity groups — led by the feminists — started to wrestle power and goods from white men. If diversity meant the end of meritocracy and a weakening of competence, then so be it. They got stuff.

That soon evolved into diversity and identity/tribal politics. Not all that popular, so importing voters from the third world is changing from being driven less by virtue signalling and more by political necessity. The primary directive of of good jobs for smart lefties is maxing out, because government expansion is burdening the economy and because their less talented political allies are demanding good government jobs too, even if they cannot really do them. Meritocracy is now the enemy!

It will be interesting to see what the ALP come up with next.