Why is John Howard spending precious campaign time campaigning in his own seat? Is it possible that there’s a risk he could lose it? And does Malcolm Turnbull need Howard to stay away from Wentworth?
Howard’s unprecedented political spamming of Bennelong voters was the first sign he was worried (PM pays his son to dish up spam). Today he took a street walk in the shopping precinct of Eastwood, the solidly middle class suburb in his electorate where former Liberal Party president John Valder launched his Not Happy John! campaign to unseat Howard last month. (I spoke at the launch, along with Valder, Brian Deegan – the independent challenging Alexander Downer in Mayo, and “Merlin” of Big Brother fame. For Sunday’sfeature on the campaign, see Not happy, John.)
Howard got a rip roaring reception at Eastwood, much of ithostile, particularly over greenhouse policy and the war on Iraq. He also ran into Andrew Wilkie, the bloke who exposed his lies on Iraq before the war and who’s now standing for The Greens to call him to account.
Across the harbour, Malcolm Turnbull is continuing his double-game to win Wentworth for the Liberals, while Valder is calling on Peter King to take the plunge and join the Not Happy, John crowd (see the Wentworth page of the NHJ campaign website).
Even after I published Bondi Beach resident Jonathan Nolan’s unhappy experiences with Turnbull in Inside Wentworth: Turnbull accuses Webdiarist of ‘mischievous dishonesty’ Jonathan reckons the scam goes on:
Without wanting to flog a dead horse, the Turnbull campaign workers are still at it in Bondi. Two young Liberals in Turnbull T-shirts this morning on the corner of Hall Street and Campbell Parade in Bondi were handing out leaflets. The EXACT words from one of them after I said, “No thanks, I like Malcolm but I don’t want to vote for John Howard”?
“Well, don’t tell anyone, but Peter Costello in two years.”
I’m beginning to think I should be wired up and record this line of argument. Is it how they have been briefed to get votes?! (See also Labor’s Costello wedge keeps Wentworth on the move.)
Last night’s Turnbull’s team takes gloves off: King is ‘low life’, which published an email from the President of Turnbull’s Wentworth Liberal Party branch Jason Falinski, adds weight to my belief that Howard faces a similar phenomenon to that of Labor in 2001. Howard has ignored the beliefs and values of part of his core constuency for so long that his safe Liberal seats are Not Happy! We saw big swings to the Greens in safe inner city Labor seats in 2001, and the signs are we’re seeing the same thing this time on John Howard’s now disenfranchised small “l” Liberal flank.
Is the Liberal Party splitting during the election campaign? Here’s yesterday’s Freudian slip from former moderate Helen Coonan, a Wentworth resident who joined Howard’s right wing to win his favour and a ministry:
MELBOURNE, Sept 3 AAP – Communications Minister Helen Coonan warned today that dumped Liberal MP Peter King’s decision to run as an independent would damage the party’s chances of retaining the blue ribbon Sydney seat of Wentworth.
But Senator Coonan slipped up when asked about the election, accidentally endorsing Mr King rather than Liberal candidate Malcolm Turnbull, before correcting herself.
Senator Coonan, who lives in Wentworth, said she hoped Mr King’s nomination had not fatally derailed Mr Turnbull’s chances of election to parliament. “I think it’s disappointing that Peter King has decided to stand as an independent,” she told a luncheon in Melbourne.
“However, I actually live in the electorate of Wentworth and I will be out there supporting Peter King … Peter, er … Malcolm Turnbull as the endorsed Liberal candidate.”
Here’s an idea from Kathleen McIntyre in Armidale:
“Did you happen to see John Howard being thrown a packet of cheese by a man in the Tweed Shire yesterday? It was a hoot. I didn’t catch all he said to Howard, it happened so quickly, but he did say, “You have passed your use-by date”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all disaffected Liberal voters sent their representatives a packet of cheese! They could start a “cheesed off” movement.”
And here’s a prediction from a bloke who worked on Labor’s campaign in the Cunningham byelection at which The Greens trounded Labor in a boilover in 2002 (see Green steel). He needs to remain anonymous:
I handed out how-to-vote-cards and scrutineered one of the largest booths in Cunningham. There was no animosity from the constituents. They were all very polite, so I thought we should be OK.
We went inside at the end of the day and our candidate wasn’t polling well, but at a glance I thought we should get over the line on preferences. Then they started counting preferences and they were falling in favour of The Greens Michael Organ at a rate of – and I’m not exaggerating – about six to one!
One of our current Federal MPs walked over and whispered to me, “Pardon the expression, but I think we’re f…ed”! We were. One of the Green scrutineers who used to be Labor even apologised to me because I think it looked like I was about to cry.
Where I draw the comparison is there were a lot of old party faithful and people who had voted Labor all there life who deserted us that day because they felt that the powers that be were deciding who was going to represent them in Canberra and they were not going to have a bar of it.
The same is playing out in Wentworth.
The common defence is that Peter King lost fair and square in a pre-selection to Malcolm Turnbull. The fact is that he lost to one of the worst examples of branch stacking that I have ever seen. It makes some of the ALP past branch stacks look like Kindergarten play. Peter King’s supporters will remember this, and the results from the pre-selection will tell you that he has quite a few.
The party apparatchiks were behind his demise right the way up to the Rodent. The membership will not appreciate this one little bit and will punish them accordingly. And remember, because Turnbull stacked the branches, a lot of people that voted for him will not be your long time hardcore branch members that go out on polling day and hand out how to votes. Those will largely belong to Peter King.
I think Turnbull will be seen as an opportunist and a Johnny-come-lately, given his background. He will certainly be seen as being foisted on the constituency as their local member, just like – you guessed it – Cunningham.
In Cunningham every candidate preferenced the Green above the Labor candidate. In Wentworth, it will be the same scenario. Every candidate will preference Peter King above Malcolm Turnbull.
Pardon my expression, but I think he’s f…ed!
Here’s your take on Jason Falinski’s email.
First, this election is too close to call. Second the mood in the Scoresby Corridor in Melbourne is very dark toward the ALP, and it could not just go backwards in marginal Liberal seats like Deakin, Dunkley, Aston and La Trobe but could lose up to 4 seats – Chisholm, Holt, Isaacs, and Bruce.
Wentworth? King or Turnbull will win, but a side note. When Tony Blair won the 1997 British Election he won several Wentworth type seats, so Howard had better be careful. Also, every State ALP Government has seats they have never won before. Most are Small l Liberal by nature.
Finally, I must reject your claim at the “Not Happy John” rally that if Howard won then Democracy is dead. I have to say that what you said was Silly if not Stupid.
Trevor Snape in McMahons Point, North Sydney
Jason Falinski, president of the Point Piper branch of the Liberal Party, refers to Peter King’s “sudden discovery of morality” in relation to refugees and children in detention. It looks as if Jason accepts that the moral position is that adopted by Peter King.
Will Jason and other Liberals follow Peter King and denounce the government’s immorality? Of course Peter King’s recent “conversion” reeks of hypocrisy, but as they say, better late than never.
The Howard government is the most despicable government I have ever experienced. Decent people should be repulsed by the lies, distortions, deviousness and sniveling kowtowing to Bush. I lived in the UK under Maggie Thatcher for a few years (I am a Pom) and she is a paragon of virtue and decency compared to Howard. For the sake of a civilised, tolerant society, Howard and his supporters must be thrown out.
Jason, I just read your epistle in Margo’s Webdiary. Congratulations – a home goal! I hope that many libs take your direction and speak about as you have. Congrats for supporting the “Little man”. But surely, despite your protestations of past silence, isn’t Peter King now speaking out when no others dare? Jason, why silence an honest man’s voice where this election is about the future and TRUST and honesty.
Shit Jason, get your brains into gear.
Kay Kan in Cheltenham, NSW
Margo, I was astounded to read that the president of the Wentworth branch of the Liberal Party and contributor to Turnbull’s campaign said of Peter King that “at the last election he was all too happy to campaign on the Children Overboard issue and gain entry into federal parliament, playing to the worst fears of the electorate”. This was not Peter King’s policy, it was John Howard’s, and many Liberals were happy to accept this strategy as a price for victory. Presumably so too was Jason Falinski.
Stoking fears about a particular group of people has a name – call it racism, xenophobia or whatever – and the Liberal Party was happy to engage in it. But you cannot use it just a little bit and pretend it isn’t really racism or xenophobia. That is like losing a little bit of one’s virginity, or a little bit of one’s independence, or being just a little bit pregnant.
Jason Falinski is also doing what he accuses Peter King of doing.
So here we have another ‘piece of wasted space’ adopting Howard’s hostage taking’ of anybody who dares to believe that they can hold a view about issues. Falinski appears to be his very own piece of low life who, like the other sycophants, blindly obeys and therefore believes the absolutely deceitful utterances of our so-called Prime Minister. Get a life, Jason, and do something useful in this world!