The rumours have been building for some time now. Cory Bernardi will launch a mainstream, viable and credible conservative party. If he does it will be for one key reason: the Liberal Party has left Bernardi and its conservative base hang out to dry, while it goes gallivanting after the Greens, retweets and ABC affection.
Last week several outlets announced that this would occur shortly. Now every journalist is running ‘exclusives’ claiming it will all happen tomorrow.
It seems likely: all my sources have been saying the same thing.
Of course, if Senator Bernardi does launch tomorrow there will be something else that will give this new party an incredible electoral advantage: it will be the only mainstream, viable and credible conservative party in Australia.
That used to be the Liberal/National coalition. Then it embraced climate change targets, pushed gay marriage, racked up debt like it doesn’t matter on the taxpayers’ credit card and crowned Turnbull king. So it gave up any hold on the ‘conservative voter’ market a long time ago.
And this market is not a niche one. It is the largest slice of the electorate and where all the growth is.
Hanson, Katter, Xenophon, Palmer – all these figures (and the parties that they lead or led) are reactionary and ego-centric. They may have good instincts on occasion but they also get it wrong. Furthermore, because they lead authoritarian organisations, members get no say and are left to watch silently when the leader sails the ship towards the rocks.
However, it is true that these parties can garner support on occasion. But they are still not stable or conservative and they live only as long as the fan club holds it together.
All the indications are that Bernardi will not be launching a fan club. He will be leading a conservative political party that will endure long after him. This will empower members, drive confidence and ensure stability. It is exactly what Australia needs and what conservative Australian voters have been thirsting for.
Brexit and the election of Trump mean that Bernardi has timed this perfectly. The last major political force to rise in Australia was at the end of World War Two when the Liberal Party of Australia was born. That was 70 years ago. So it is no exaggeration to say that the present moment is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
And it would be no surprise either if Bernardi’s actions kill off the Liberal Party as well.
It no longer has a purpose except as a career path for professional politicians. Nothing highlights this more than the fact that Bernardi’s move is likely to end the aspirations of the leading Liberals from both sides of the party divide: Turnbull and Abbott.
These men represent polar-opposite ideological views in an irreconcilably fractured party that has been held together by no other force than personal ambition.
Turnbull has presided over a party contemptuous of its members and their wishes. Many have already abandoned his ship. If Bernardi walks, much of the rest of the conservative base will as well. And that leaves Turnbull running a diminished organisation that truly is no different than Labor, with one exception: it will be led by a man who proves every day that he has no conviction of character.
Labor may be a disaster but at least we know that whoever leads it will unashamedly back its disastrous policies.
Turnbull prefers to dither around his train wrecks and that is just embarrassing.
And that leaves Abbott.
Conservative Liberal members were irate when Abbott was ousted. But they were also irate at him for selling out just when he arrived at the top. They would have forgiven him after the coup if his mea culpas looked genuine. But it appears that Abbott is continuing to sell a flawed message: conservatives need to stick with guys like Turnbull if they want something done.
Abbott still doesn’t get it. Conservatives know that working with guys like Turnbull is precisely why things don’t get done.
So Abbott’s pitch is really about his own self-interest. He wants conservative numbers to bolster his own position.
Abbott more than literally led conservative Australia. He was the PM that promised conservative hope and then delivered little. It was not because he lacked the numbers. It was because he lacked the courage. And now he has given up all claim to the title of Australia’s conservative leader by maintaining the illogical line that conservatives need to support Malcolm Turnbull’s ever more liberal Liberal Party.
If Abbott remains with Turnbull he will become the leader of the irrelevant and compromised conservatives. Any conservative politician who sticks with Abbott will die the political death as well.
Even if Abbott did join with Cory, his role will not be that of Australia’s conservative leader. That role will go to a man with courage, conviction and the ability to act decisively.
If he seizes the moment that man will be Senator Cory Bernardi.