Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook – After Abbott’s demise, the heat is now on Bill Shorten

This week began with a mutinous insurrection by Liberal Party MPs against their own leader, Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Ghostly memories of the overthrow of Bob Hawke (1991), John Gorton (1971) and Margaret Thatcher (1990) floated by.
By the end of the week Malcolm Turnbull was the new PM, Abbott was cactus after one year and 361 days in office and the national political and media focus shifted on to Labor leader Bill Shorten.
Canberra was no longer obsessing about Abbott’s arrogant and dysfunctional “blokey” administration because the blowtorch had turned on Shorten’s performance.
Naturally, the new anti-Shorten narrative is being encouraged by Rupert Murdoch’s pay TV and newspaper empire and the Liberals.
But those speculating on another ALP leadership change should take a cold shower. Absurd party rules were rushed through by former Labor leader Kevin Rudd in 2013 to protect his own back. They introduced a new rule that 60% of MPs have to sign a petition to replace the leader if he/she refuses to resign or becomes incurably sick or goes mad. So Shorten is safe behind a cordon sanitaire provided by Rudd.
But without Abbott as a “bogeyman”, Shorten is now exposed to the full glare of public scrutiny: what does he stand for and where are the policies to recapture the voters who drifted away in droves in 2013?
The first post-Abbott opinion survey conducted by Morgan Poll confirmed the massive task he now faces. A sweeping 70% of people in the survey supported Turnbull as preferred PM, and only 24% backed Shorten.
Turnbull led convincingly among males and females from both major parties. Pollster Gary Morgan added: “Even more remarkably, a majority of ALP supporters say Turnbull would be a better PM.”
Shorten and his minders have begun stupidly by deciding to attack Turnbull as a rich, successful, arrogant bastard. While that’s true, a majority of voters don’t think so at the moment. It will take time for them to shake-off their infatuation with the vainglorious oligarch.
Shorten could try something novel, like equipping his party with a new set of policies to strengthen public health, education, housing, transport, broadcasting, innovation and economic sustainability.

Welcome to Corbynland

Waking up in an Abbott-free Australia was exhilarating but just as pleasurable was Jeremy Corbyn’s sweeping victory in the British Labour Party leadership election.
The result was: Corbyn 251,417 votes (58.5%), Andy Burnham 80,462 (19%), Yvette Cooper 71,928 (17%) and official Blairite and Sun-supported candidate Liz Kendall 18,857 (4.5%).
Corbyn’s triumph, against all odds, represents a political earthquake. A mass movement has been created in just a few weeks expressing hostility to the old political order.
Workers and their middle class allies have used the traditional forms of struggle that their forebears created – the trades unions and the Labour Party – to clear away the class collaborators in order to confront Prime Minister David Cameron’s City-led Tories.
But the next UK election isn’t until May 2020. Will the emergent mass movement be prepared to wait five years for change? Somehow I doubt it, especially as the new Labour leader has promised to argue his policies in the House of Commons as well as the high streets.
In other words, he will employ an extra-parliamentary tactic, something that his predecessors abandoned decades ago when they opted to become Her Majesty’s Loyal Parliamentary Opposition.
They feared mass action would incite rebellion: I’m thinking of the 1926 General Strike which provoked a State of Emergency in which the British army was mobilised for strike-breaking duties.
Doubters and revisionists will soon discover that the class struggle in Britain, home of the world’s oldest working class, is alive and well.

Flying the flag

The UN General Assembly has voted to fly the Palestinian flag at its headquarters in New York.
The vote was controversial because Palestine does not (yet) enjoy internationally recognised nationhood status. At the UN, the Palestinian delegation holds non-member observer status, much to the ongoing annoyance of the Israeli regime.
When the vote was taken to fly the Palestinian flag, Australia was shamefully one of the eight nations to vote against. The resolution was passed by 119 votes in support with eight against and 45 abstentions.
The eight against were Australia, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Tuvalu, United States and Canada.
By joining the Zionist lobby and Israel’s micro-client states of the Pacific, the Coalition government was once again encouraging the apartheid-style Israeli regime. Will things change under new PM Malcolm Turnbull – or Bill Shorten for that matter? Sadly, I don’t think so.

Cooking the books

Surprise, surprise. Fifty members of the US intelligence community have signed a protest letter revealing that their situation reports on ISIS were doctored to include false information.
The story made front-page headlines in The New York Times and The Washington Post but was buried on the inside pages of Australian newspapers.
Why? Perhaps it would ring alarm bells that the former Abbott government had blundered into Iraq and Syria and was repeating John Howard’s epic war crime of invading Iraq in March 2003 on the basis of “cooked” intelligence on weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
This week the Pentagon’s inspector-general opened an investigation into the manipulation of intelligence – a sure-fire process to ensure a cover-up. The original reports were altered to support the Pentagon’s public line that the US and its allies (Australia) were winning the “war” against ISIS and al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.
Washington’s intelligence “beat ups” were greeted by Abbott, Canberra’s spy agencies and right-wing think tanks because they validated deeper involvement in the ever-expanding war.
Another SNAFU – situation normal, all fucked up – is in the making.

Murder by drone

Two British nationals fighting for IS in Syria, Rayaad Khan from Cardiff and Ruhul Amin from Aberdeen, were killed in an RAF drone strike on August 21, Prime Minister David Cameron told the Commons.
It was the first occasion in modern times a lethal attack had been launched by a British government outside a legally declared war.
In June two Australian nationals, Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar, were killed in a drone strike in Iraq.
How long before Canberra admits the executions were coordinated between Australian Special Forces on the ground and US drones operated by the CIA?

One comment

  1. It’s interesting Alex to see that Britain has engaged in real change, at least as far as the parliamentary leadership if the Labour Party is concerned. Great to read that Jeremy Corbyn has said he’ll take politics to the street, and of course that’s the only way Britain will see progressive change, because as everyone who’s ever paid attention knows, very little progressive change has ever come from Parliament.

    Meanwhile is Australia we continue our slumber, carefully ignoring the increasing number or seriously poor among us as we pretend that the middle class life is still within reach of all, when increasingly it’s not even available to the children of today’s middle class, let along those on median wages or welfare.

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