Scientists’ reputations live or die by the quality of their research. Politicians think their careers live or die by the quality of their attitudinal research but forget that attitudinal research might be powerful but not unerring.
Scott Morrison, who is obsessive about market research and how it helps him craft three word slogans and position himself, seems to be having a bit of hard time actually putting whatever his research is telling him into practice.
In recent months he has, to put it mildly, been all over the place. Can do capitalism versus don’t do government, which was the next big thing, only gets rolled out these days by people ridiculing him and the concept.
He’s currently trying out the dangers of a Green-Labor coalition forgetting he has a slight problem with his own Coalition partners – the deeply divided boys from the bush led by the inspiring figure of Barnaby.
He may also not understand the deep political reality that as far as the Greens are concerned the primary enemy is Labor and unless they can win votes from them they can never win a lower house seat.
He may understand it and hope that people in Queensland don’t but it may not be enough to replicate the 2019 Queensland result. Indeed, if Get Up shuts up and Bob Brown stays in Tasmania 2019 replication is even more unlikely.
He’s trotted out John Howard’s who do you trust? line but compared to Morrison Howard is no longer the mendacity example par excellence.
Petrol prices, interest rates and electricity bills going up have also got a bit of run. At least that’s true – for whoever is in government after 2022 – although current record prices are appearing under his watch.
Jobs and growth might get a run again and he can rely on only a few in the media asking which jobs and what growth? But as Australia’s current economic performance is the worst in 60 years it is hard for voters to believe him.
Technology not taxes still gets a run but it is gradually seeping into taxpayer’s minds that it’s their taxes which are funding the technology and companies he’s subsidising.
Being immensely tactical his instant political fixes are also becoming problematic. Trying to parachute Gladys Berejiklian while attacking the NSW ICAC reminds people that he has failed to honour his promises on an integrity commission.
By doing so he also talked something up which he couldn’t deliver and now has to quickly think up some new lines to explain it all away.
That’s why his staff were busily briefing the media that it was all her fault for not killing it off.
He persists with saying that any female MP he carpets for being independent or showing initiative is being ‘supported’ shortly after his staff have briefed the usual suspects in the media that the woman involved is having serious psychological problems and/or suffering from female problems.
As the election campaign heats up you will be able to deduce pretty accurately what the Liberal Party research is suggesting to Morrison.
If he does sticks to one thing in coming months that is probably an indicator that it’s the only winning ploy he’s got. If he continues to try several and then drop them quickly you will know he’s floundering.
The great comedians who worked the Borscht Belt US Catskills circuit once made sure they used the routines their older audiences loved. The younger ones – Mel Brooks, Jerry Stiller et al – tried out new routines and then used them to win over audiences throughout the whole US.
Scott Morrison is currently caught between the two approaches. He can’t resort to attending Sharks matches – wrong season – and he’s no John Howard when it comes to cricket. The next Bathhurst event will be after the election. Every time he gets into a truck or earth mover it will resonate negatively with the female voters he is progressively losing.
If he goes to an art gallery or a classical music concert the audience will probably boo.
He’ll be safe using the old shtick with his Pentecostalism mates and their fellow worshippers. But he needs some new shtick for other audiences. Sadly for him he has invested so much in the old one it may that it might be hard to win over any new audiences.
The Catskills audiences were happy with the old routines for decades. But the newer performers knew there was a bigger and different world out there.
It is doubtful that Scott Morrison realises that and knows how to adapt to it.
Postscript to the previous blog earlier this week: A friend emailed to say: “So you want the Canberra establishment (and Spring and Macquarie streets, and all the others) to turn on their heads, and burst ‘the bubble’, by encouraging social connection, showing empathy, helping (we citizens and our economy and environment), and becoming approachable. All of our government institutions have moved a million miles from that.”
But he said he was encouraged by reading it to revisit Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks who said “When we move from the politics of ‘me’ to the politics of ‘all of us together,’ we rediscover those beautiful, counter-intuitive truths: that a nation is strong when it cares for the weak, that it becomes rich when it cares for the poor, it becomes invulnerable when it cares about the vulnerable. That is what makes great nations.”
“Sacks also said, (I paraphrase) Good leaders create followers, great leaders create leaders.”
As well as being a wise man Sacks has the honour of being part of a remarkable duo – the only time for several centuries when both the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury (then Rowan Williams) were significant intellectuals.