This is the surprising but steadily growing realisation within the Liberal Party who have endured its years in Opposition as uniformly dispiriting. Many in the ALP have suspected it for over a year. The polls are confirming it.
Labor’s primary vote has been steadily drooping since Brumby’s leadership and increasingly the centre left in Victoria has to divert valuable resources defending their homeland inner-city seats against that sinister Party of Rousseau and Marx â€“ angry Adam Bandt’s Greens party.
Looking more and more tired, Brumby’s Labor can’t blame ‘bloody Jeff’ anymore for its own failings, which include a series of systematic wasteful projects; the perceived rise of violent crimes and corrupt behaviour among police and public service; and cost of living issues bubbling beneath the surface.
Moreover people just haven’t warmed to Premier Brumby as they did to Victoria’s first ethnically Arab Premier, Steve Bracks. Bracks is a Hawke, Brumby a Keating, it seems.
Little wonder public polls indicate the closest contest since 1999.
PESSIMISM v HUBRIS
Yet pessimism rules supreme. Since Kennett’s 1999 demise, leadership from the Liberal Opposition has been directionless, tractionless and purposeless.
Pessimists in the Liberal Party point to the perturbing primary results for the Senate and House of Reps figures for the Coalition. From that vantage point, the State Libs could go backwards. Other factors in their argument’s favour: Ted’s incoherent case for change; negligible fundraising; and a demotivated parliamentary party – which not incidentally is never allowed to meet without in a scheduled joint party meeting with Nationals, ensuring greivances are never aired in camera.
Many in the Party are also weary of Ted’s strategy of out-flanking the Labor Party from the left and the hedging of bets with a Liberal-Greens alliance in case of a hung parliament – a statistical likelihood. The pessimists also note an absence of consistent offensive volleys against Labor. It is as if Baillieu doesn’t want to win the next election outright.
Pessimists should remind themselves, however, that stranger things have happened. Red Ted as Victorian Premier by Christmas is on the cards.
Hubrists, like Louise Asher, Deputy Liberal Leader and former senior Kennett Minister certainly thinks so. At party meetings, she is openly boasting about how much she looks forward to returning to the Treasury benches.
Red Ted has surrounded himself by his compliant aye-sayers (with the exception of Simon Troeth) sharing the Leader’s besieged mentality. Hermetically sealed, Ted and the so-called Kennett forces are throwing everything at this election.
As they must: An election loss means they will not be able to hold back the angry tide of so-called Krogerites dominating the Administration Committee and the State Council, desperate to renew a timid parliamentary party.
THE FAILURE UNIT
Desperate politicians do unusual things: Ted with the support of 104 Exhibition Street has now acquired the assistance of Dr Peter Poggioli.
For many, this will come as a peculiar development. Dr Poggioli is blamed, in part, for the Hon. Jeffrey Gibb Kennett’s shock 1999 defeat, as the then State Director of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party.
Poggioli, a New York Italian, is remembered for his own hubristic election campaign with its ‘jeff.com.au‘ and ‘Jeff effinâ€™ Rules’ ads and his incapacity to rein in Kennett’s arrogant style. Expectations management went missing in 1999.
The state directorâ€™s notorious advertisements were working well in metropolitan seats where the Libs did well; but they played poorly in the provinces, demonstrating the Party’s incapacity to change style or tact to resonate meaningfully outside of Melbourne, even after the 1997 Gippsland West by-election loss to the duplicitous ‘Independent’ Susan Davies.
Perhaps more farcical was Poggioli’s post-election justifications such as his declaration of the Coalition claiming democratic legitimacy by winning the three-party preferred vote.
Poggioli’s involvement has the unpleasant odour of history repeating itself. Little wonder some are calling Bailiieu’s firewalled office: The Failure Unit – a cute twist on the Party’s yearning of having their own Dirt Unit to demonstrate a modicum of their own Machiavellian cunning!
THE DOCTOR MAY NOT DELIVER BAD NEWS
In no way is Dr Poggioli without talent or drive or insight; some think he may well be the shot in the arm Ted’s insular office and directionless campaign needs.
Poggioli was Dr David Kemp’s Chief of Staff before his retirement and by all accounts, not a bad COS. Kemp is, of course, the State President and sees his role as an honest broker between the Division’s two warring factions. Many question Kemp’s unquestioning faith in Oakeshottean group hugs. Certainly the return of Poggioli to Victorian campaign politics exemplifies Kemp’s presidential style.
Dr Poggioli has since established himself an enviable and successful career in the health and pharmaceutical sector and is currently, according to Linkedin, the communications director of the world’s number vendor of drugs, including that little blue pill of love Viagra, Pfizer, where he works with the highly regarded David Myles, a NSW Liberal identity.
Some are concerned by Poggioli’s opaque resurrection as it has invited rumours that 104 is handsomely compensating the Pfizer executive for his efforts with scarce campaign funds. VEXNEWS suspects Poggioli is more likely to be on leave with or without pay to assist his long standing friend with Ted.
One thing is for sure: if Baillieu and The Failure Unit fall short in gaining government, the exceptional patience extended towards Baillieu’s uninspiring leadership will abruptly end.
In fact, the best case scenario for Baillieu is a hung parliament with the balance of power Greens’ supporting him as Premier. In that way, Baillieu can cash in his grooming of the Greens, duchess Greg Barber with the public transport portfolio, sideline his internal critics and claim his unusual Liberal lefty leadership style is best placed to manage a very delicate parliamentary mix.
An insightful Florentine once wrote: A war is never avoided but merely postponed to your disadvantage.
In 2010, Baillieu seems to be testing that axiom.