Based on content of much of this site, it would probably be a fair assumption that I spend a fair amount of time talking about politics with friends and family. For the most part, it would also be wrong. In fact, when I said I wanted to see what had happened in Wentworth, the person I said it too thought I was talking about the TV series of the same name for a moment.
But I did pay a bit of attention to the events of the Wentworth by-election and had a few observations to make.
My first reaction was of happiness more than relief. As I have written previously I will not write off the Coalition too quickly ahead of the next election, and any suggestion that the swings against the government in Wentworth would be replicated next year is a bit of a stretch.
But what the by-election result does mean is that the government is now pretty much stymied from forcing through any more of its Neanderthal, coal-focused ultra-right agenda before the next election. Dr Phelps has been very clear on a number of important issues, including our appalling treatment of refugees in offshore detention and our national inaction on climate change.
I also found the conduct of the major stakeholders quite fascinating. Labor’s gamble in running strongly against the Coalition, but essentially conceding the main opposition to Dr Phelps was something I haven’t seen before, but it paid off, with the Coalition weakened nationally and publicly embarrassed as a result of their loss.
The victorious independent herself, I found to be consistently impressive in every appearance she made. She speaks with intelligence and compassion and her response to the hoax email about her withdrawal from the by-election due to contracting HIV was all class.
To many progressive observers, Scott Morrison’s behaviour in the lead up and on the night of the by-election showed just how opportunistic and out of touch he is, but at the same time I had to admit that listening to him speak to Liberal supporters after the result was declared, I had to grudgingly remind myself he can perform well in front of a microphone.
In a speech in which seemingly without irony he compared the spirit of the Invictus Games athletes with the Liberal Party and said of Bill Shorten would never become prime minister of this country by trying to divide it, (conveniently forgetting that Coalition senators voted in favour of Pauline Hanson’s white nationalist motion in the senate less than a week earlier and that half of Coalition election strategy will involve dog-whistling at minorities) the PM’s confident bluster was oddly compelling and I could imagine it would have been received well by Liberal voters.
However I also got the feel that ScumMo’s heavy involvement in Wentworth upstaged the local candidate to some degree. Compared to the Prime Minister’s bluster and arrogance, Sharma’s more reserved language and appearance often made him look like the nervous intern letting the ScumMo and Frydenberg do most of the talking, And that is before I even get to the really awkward series of half hugs between the three of them.