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January 30th 2016 print

Merv Bendle

The Coming Conservative Revolt

If Liberals persist in endorsing the moral, cultural, and political nihilism of their current leader nothing is more certain than the emergence of an ardent movement intent on restoring the primacy of principle. Don't believe your media courtiers, Mr Turnbull. The storm is gathering

pitchfork IIConservatism is in crisis. That is the conclusion drawn by leading commentators, reflecting upon the Turnbull coup in Australia, the electoral defeat of Stephen Harper in Canada, and the ongoing success of David Cameron, seen as Tory centrist. But are they right? Or are they suffering from the premature articulation of progressivist triumphalism?

According to Paul Kelly in The Australian (paywalled), writing in the afterglow of the coup, there is a powerful global trend against traditional conservative values “and Australia is a frontline test case”. Leading this alleged trend is Malcolm Turnbull, “a social progressive who champions same-sex marriage, serious action on climate change, a multicultural society, a repudiation of the monarchical trappings, and an economy, entrepreneurial and innovative, geared to aspiration.”

Kelly claims that this collection of trendy issues constitutes an alternative political platform “to that adopted by any previous Liberal Prime Minister”. It is, by his reckoning, a synthesis of “economic adaptability with social progressivity [sic], not the social conservatism of Howard and Abbott”, and Turnbull’s task, again according to Kelly, is to hold the conservative forces of the Liberal Party together while he remakes it in his own progressivist image.

While this leftward shift within the Liberal Party might lead to the disaffection of the party’s traditional conservatives at the grassroots level the line is that they have nowhere to go. Moreover, their loss will be compensated by Turnbull’s “appeal to feminists, gays, environmentalists, ethnics and youths”. Apparently these latter groups will now enthusiastically join Liberal Party branches, engage in fund-raising, and stand around on election days giving out how-to-vote cards for the newly-transformed, “progressivist” Liberal Party.

On the other hand, this progressivist shift within the party might be quite traumatic, meaning Turnbull’s major challenge will be to retain the traditional conservative base before it “fragments and badly damages his government, a process that occurred, in varying ways, in Britain and the US.” Here Kelly invokes David Cameron as one of the “symbols of [the] new brand of conservative party leader” he believes Turnbull to be — men who “govern in their own right and have inflicted crushing defeats on the main oppositions”.  Moreover, while “Cameron struggled to hold support from conservative MPs and limit damage from the right-wing populist UK Independence Party”, he ultimately prevailed, in Kelly’s view.

Presently in Australia, “the conservative movement within the Liberal Party is at a crossroads” and must redefine itself, according to Peter van Onselen, writing today (January 30) in the Weekend Australian beneath the headline “Mod cons with little room to move”. Standing in the middle of this intersection is Tony Abbott, whom van Onselen portrays as the principal obstacle on the path to a constructive transformation of Australian conservatism. Despite Abbott’s post-coup attempts to remake himself as an ideological leader of Anglosphere conservatism, van Onselen dismisses him as a fake who betrayed conservatives on the iconic issue of free speech when he reneged on his promise to remove the draconian restrictions imposed on free speech by Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Abbott, according to van Onselen, is merely one of the “reactionaries on the right” threatening to hijack modern conservatism.

This apparently will be led by “up and coming conservatives” like Angus Taylor (which may explain the desperate attempts by the progressivist NSW Liberal Party machine to dis-endorse him), Senator Zed Seselja, or new MP Andrew Hastie. In the interim, “Peter Dutton and Josh Frydenberg jostle for position at the top of the conservative tree”. All these politicians are “seeking to break free from the Abbott era”, and the one thing they need is for Abbott to go away (along with Kevin Andrews, Eric Abetz, and other “ageing veterans”).

The problem with this type of analysis is that it is based on the false premise that conservatism is globally in retreat and needs to adorn itself in progressivist attire. It certainly is the case that progressivism enjoys a stranglehold on key elites in Canada and Australia – a stranglehold Turnbull exploited to engineer his coup. It is also very influential in the US, UK, and EU. Nevertheless, progressivism is itself now in retreat under the impact of widespread (and long overdue) reactions to two interlocked phenomena. Firstly, to the stifling ideological domination of political correctness – a response epitomized by the rise of Donald Trump – and, secondly, to the increasingly existential threat of Islamism and the Muslim insurgency, especially in Europe.

The terminal weakness of progressivism is presently being revealed: it is little more than state-empowered libertinism, iconoclasm, and antinomianism, financed by mortgaging the future and culminating in civilizational suicide. Its impotence in the face of a mortal demographic, social and ideological threat is presently being demonstrated as Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and France scramble to put the jihadist genie back in the Middle-Eastern bottle. All across Europe, parties of the right and the far-right are enjoying massive increases in support as Europeans realize what their sermonising betters have done. Support that will only grow as the Continent sinks into the quagmire of its own making.

Australia (it can be hoped) will avoid this catastrophe precisely because of the pre-eminently conservative steps taken by the Abbott government to ‘stop the boats’ and largely curtail the tsunami of illegal immigration promoted by the Rudd-Gillard regimes. Ironically, as Europe wallows in the progressivist crapulence that Rudd, Gillard (and now Turnbull) longed to plunge Australia into, there is increasingly widespread recognition of the vital role Abbott (and Scott Morrison as Immigration minister) played in helping Australia avoid this fate – a recognition that is helping Abbott polish up his new conservative persona.

The challenge for Australian conservatives in this context is to avoid the siren call of influential and articulate commentators, like van Onselen and Kelly, and not capitulate to the moral, cultural, and political nihilism represented by the ‘moderates’ in the Liberal Party. If the latter do prevail and there is a stampede to the progressivist left, then there will inevitably appear a significant new political force on the conservative side of politics. Such a development is presently heralded by the formation of the Australian Liberty Alliance by disaffected political activists appalled by the free rein given to Islamism in Australia and exasperated by the progressivist interdiction of the freedom of expression required to intelligently address such vital issues.

Ultimately, history will reveal that it is not conservatism but progressivism that is in crisis. What this nation needs are politicians able to comprehend the ominous trajectory of global events and articulate a conservative response for the Australian people.

Comments [21]

  1. en passant says:

    Mervyn,
    I wish you were right, but the fracturing of the once great Liberal Party as a result of Leftist infiltration (does nobody ask new members their views before signing them up?) is terminal as their membership has plunged because there is no ‘great leader’ immediately able to arise from the mediocre members in the Parliamentary party. Hastie, Taylor and others may be men of the future. Abbott was an excellent second-in-command, but too insecure to be the top man as he lacks the narcissistic psyche, the self belief and the ruthlessness necessary to deal with the treacherous. He may be an Abbott, but the disloyal Bishops got him. Also, Captain Thought-Bubble allowed himself to be distracted from the main game. Morrison & Frydenburg (lack principles and deliberately blotted their copybooks due to over-ambition) Report Card marked ‘Not to be trusted.’
    Since resigning from the Liberal Party (to make room for the surge of the young trendies) I have researched four minor parties. They are all immature, but come the great anti-Turnbull Election (predicted before 31 May) they will receive my primary votes with the majors at the bottom, just below the Anarchists, Trots and Animal Rights.
    By the way, we were assured on National TV that membership of the Liberal Party had INCREASED since the day of infamy when the unelected disgracefully became PM. Despite eight emails asking for the figures and pointing out that this great news should be broadcast widely as it will reassure the doubters, the figures remain a secret. I have my own theory as to why, but it is a secret …”

    • Jody says:

      It must be a comparatively new development in politics for them “not to be trusted”. I don’t remember ever hearing of this characteristic before. In history or literature either.

  2. pgang says:

    I’d add that progresivism is also at risk from its profligate socialist spending policies, of which working and struggling Australians are becoming mightily sick and tired.

    Progressivism seems, from my perspective, to be driven mainly by women. Most women I talk to think ‘gay marriage’ is a wonderful idea, long overdue apparently. They don’t seem to realise that they are the primary victims of such social engineering. Most men still whisper to each other incredulously about homosexuals when they can’t be overheard. There is a dichotomy here. Women seem to think that it is great for homosexual males to be able to claim family status, while the remaining 99% of men look on and wonder what the hell is wrong with the world. So if women think they have male interests at heart, and that such significant change won’t come without a significant cost, they are very wrong.

  3. Bill Martin says:

    An excellent and most timely article, Mr. Bendle. One hopes that the analysis concerning the relative states of conservatism and progressivism is not overly optimistic. It is regrettable that establishing a viable political party is such a slow, tedious affair. While the nascent Australian Liberty Alliance is a ray of hope for genuine conservatives, it will be a long and hard trudge to where it could make a difference. The best can be hoped for is the election of their two senate candidates later this year. It is unlikely that they could field any additional candidates for either house in time for the elections. Besides supporting ALA, true conservatives should refrain from voting for or preferencing any Liberal candidate while Turnbull is the leader, but without supporting Labour, Greens or any other progressive candidates. That way, even though the coalition will prevail, the level of electoral support will be much reduced, which would clearly indicate the dissatisfaction of the conservative base.

  4. Lawrie Ayres says:

    I agree that we do need a conservative party and that one would be some time off but in the interim the Nationals should be contesting all regional seats. Warren Truss needs to go but will Barnaby be any better? They have still not scrapped the Murray-Darling Basin Plan that is destroying irrigated agriculture and many regional towns nor have they addressed the treachery of John Howard’s Kyoto plan that resulted in various state native vegetation laws which fall unfairly on farmers and no one else. It is time for the Nationals to go it alone and form coalitions in their best interests and not be a rubber stamp for the city centric Liberals.

    We also desperately need to change the voting in the Senate. Number your preferred Senators one to six for example.

  5. Another View says:

    Thank you Merv Bendle. You have given voice to what I can see happening right before our eyes. Twitter and the New Media are being used to devastating effect to expose the “progressives” and the left for the absolute plonkers that they are. The behaviour of some of our so called “leaders” internationally has reached a crisis point. Many of the incumbents are simply empty vessels who are showcasing their “cred’s” for the next step up the ladder. they have forgotten the very reason for being – that is, to protect the country and it’s people. I mean, why hasn’t Merkel gone – has this woman no shame? & Hilary for President – give me a break, surely to goodness there is someone without her baggage? & the new Canadian chap – seriously? The world really has gone mad, and people have had a gutful. I will be very interested to see what happens with the Pegida March on 6/2 – that may very well be the tipping point.

    • Jack Richards says:

      You can expect the SA and Antifa thugs to put on a violent show attacking Police and Pegida supporters. It will be interesting to see how it’s reported on their ABC. What’s the bet that it’s “Far-right extremists and xenophobic racists brawl with humanitarian activists”

  6. Jack Richards says:

    Very well said, Merv. For years we’ve been lied to by the “progressives” in the media and politics. The leftist media had almost convinced many conservatives that they were alone and in the wilderness- but the rise of social media and countless alternative news sites demonstrates to us all just how much we’ve been duped. A great example was the mass sex attacks in Cologne where the local Police Chief claimed that the night had been “generally peaceful” and nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. This bare-faced and reprehensible lie was approved and promoted by the German media and the German Government for a number of days and it wasn’t until the truth was splashed all over social media that the truth came out of what had happened. But now the EU leadership is trying to tell us “yes” it did occur “but it had nothing to do with immigrants”!!! Can you believe it?

    One need only watch the ABC or read Fairfax to realise what rotten liars and censors they are. The likes of Elizabeth Farrelly, Fitzsimons and others never cease to pour their opprobrium on everything “Australian” and try to convict us all for crimes that never happened. What is most astonishing about the “progressive” media and their political shill is what they DON’T report. For example, there was a huge anti-immigrant demonstration in Warsaw, Poland, the largest demonstration in Polish history apparently – and yet it went completely unreported in Australia’s MSM. A few days later, a pro-immigration rally was held in the same city but with about 10% of the numbers – and that got mention in the all.

    The 13 year-old daughter of Russians working in Germany was kidnapped and gang-raped by “refugees” for 30 hours. The German police did nothing other than fill out some paper-work and wonder who could have done it. After all, men of “Middle-Eastern appearance” numbered in the hundreds or thousands and none of them saw or heard anything and no-one came forward to confess. Therefore the police could do nothing. It seems that the Russian-German community, grossly dissatisfied with the inaction and disinterest of the German Police, took matters into their own hands and stormed the hostel where the “refugees” resided and dished out some severe corrective measures. But I’ll bet you haven’t read anything about that in the MSM here or anywhere else. But I’ll bet you have heard that Swedish “xenophobes” attacked “immigrant children” at Stockholm railway station.

    Lies, distortions, misrepresentations, victim blaming, only ever telling half the story, is the stable diet of Progressives – but even they know that, try as they might to keep the steam in the boiler and pretend that everything is just hunky-dory and peachy-dandy, Europe and much of the western world is nearing “failure” pressure and when the boiler explodes …

    “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the Rover Tiber foaming with much blood.”

  7. Ian MacDougall says:

    Nevertheless, progressivism is itself now in retreat under the impact of widespread (and long overdue) reactions to two interlocked phenomena. Firstly, to the stifling ideological domination of political correctness – a response epitomized by the rise of Donald Trump – and, secondly, to the increasingly existential threat of Islamism and the Muslim insurgency, especially in Europe.

    Good points, Merv, except:
    (1) how does one outlaw, ban or otherwise legally curtail ‘political correctness’? A commenter on a blog or website can rant against it, but how does he (correction, he or she) take it any further?
    (2) When I last looked, the Australian Constitution guaranteed absolute religious freedom for all who reside (or just visit) within our national borders. Religious tests for citizens, immigrants and visitors, however desired by some, are off the agenda until some outfit like Australian Liberty Alliance can get all that changed. (I would not advise anyone, however indignant, to hold his or her breath waiting for that, or to even lay money on it.)
    That having been said, Islamism (including shooting up crowds; bombing cafes and the like) is none the less illegal in this country.

    The reason that so many western governments IMHO pussyfoot around on this issue is that prominent Islamic governments: Saudi Arabia 520 Mt oil production (13%), Iran 186 Mt (4%), United Arab Emirates 163 Mt (4%), Kuwait 152 Mt (4%) Iraq 148 Mt (4%) trade them so much vital oil.
    Moreover, in 1953, the one democratically elected government in the Islamic world (that led by Dr Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran) was overthrown by ruthless and undemocratic monarchist reactionaries who set the local Pahlavi gang back in power. This coup was eagerly supported and backed by short-sighted western governments and their security services.
    That set the cause of democracy back a long way in the Islamic world IMHO, and helped the Islamist cause no end. No doubt.
    .
    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/cia-assisted-coup-overthrows-government-of-iran
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat

  8. Gabrielle says:

    Thank you very much Dr Bendle. I get the sense that a tipping point is very close. All over the world, right wing parties are gathering strength as people remember what governments are for: to protect the people and maintain order. Governments do not exist to demonstrate elaborate and dangerous ‘compassion’ This is not what Governments are for. I believe Germany is lost as is France. England teeters on the brink. We are also in danger unless we maintain strong boundaries and apply the laws that already exist for our protection.

  9. Ian MacDougall says:

    Merv:
    I have commented on your thought-provoking article.
    That response of mine is ‘awaiting moderation’: the politically correct euphemism for ‘awaiting censorship’.
    ;-)

    • Bernard Tola says:

      Ian, I have had the same thing happen to me, “awaiting moderation”, but I do not suspect that it was a macabre attempt at censorship, since what I had written seemed relatively uncontroversial. I think that it is more likely a technological glitch.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        Bernard:
        Well, you never can tell around here. The party line must be maintained at all costs: (Abbott is the Light of Australia (boo from me); human-induced climate change is crap (boo from me again); business must proceed as usual, come what may (how? I say); coal exports must increase (boo from me again); Hockey is a hero (boo from me again); the Left is in a death-dance with Islamic fascism (enthusiastic agreement from me).
        The dogs bark, and the caravan moves on.

        • Bill Martin says:

          Judging by all your “boo”s Ian, you appear to be quite a masochist continuing to read Quadrant.

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            Bill:
            On the contrary, as a political centrist, I find it a most interesting site.
            One additional ‘hooray’ point I forgot to mention: I do not disagree with Abbott (or Turnbull for that matter) on border protection. Australia signed up to the International Refugee Convention shortly after the end of WW2. But with all the refugees being generated by the sectarian wars within Islam, we can no longer live up to our obligations under it. So the honest thing for us to do would be to get right out of it, as of yesterday.

      • rogerfranklin says:

        Gents: The comments system is, well, unfathomable. Sometimes it works and permits comments to go up immediately, other times it refers to them my phone and I Ok them as they arise. Mostly, I’m notified by email when further comments are lodged, except when I’m not. I’ve no idea why it does this, but once a day (if I remember) I check the queue to see what’s stuck. I seldom spike comments — rarely, in fact. And do rest easy. There is no dungeon of damned comments nor a blacklist of their authors. Such comments as do get spiked are mostly for foul language, for which there is no need whatsoever, even when emotions run high.

  10. Mayan says:

    An article in ‘The American Spectator’ could easily describe affairs in Australia. It is noteworthy that Turnbull comes from a law and merchant banking background, a circus in which access to government to critical. Anyway, the article is here: http://spectator.org/articles/39326/americas-ruling-class-and-perils-revolution

  11. Ian MacDougall says:

    (This comment is reposted here in case the Quadrant Censor has fallen asleep on the job.)

    Ian MacDougall
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    January 31, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Nevertheless, progressivism is itself now in retreat under the impact of widespread (and long overdue) reactions to two interlocked phenomena. Firstly, to the stifling ideological domination of political correctness – a response epitomized by the rise of Donald Trump – and, secondly, to the increasingly existential threat of Islamism and the Muslim insurgency, especially in Europe.

    Good points, Merv, except:
    (1) how does one outlaw, ban or otherwise legally curtail ‘political correctness’? A commenter on a blog or website can rant against it, but how does he (correction, he or she) take it any further?
    (2) When I last looked, the Australian Constitution guaranteed absolute religious freedom for all who reside (or just visit) within our national borders. Religious tests for citizens, immigrants and visitors, however desired by some, are off the agenda until some outfit like Australian Liberty Alliance can get all that changed. (I would not advise anyone, however indignant, to hold his or her breath waiting for that, or to even lay money on it.)
    That having been said, Islamism (including shooting up crowds; bombing cafes and the like) is none the less illegal in this country.

    The reason that so many western governments IMHO pussyfoot around on this issue is that prominent Islamic governments: Saudi Arabia 520 Mt oil production (13%), Iran 186 Mt (4%), United Arab Emirates 163 Mt (4%), Kuwait 152 Mt (4%) Iraq 148 Mt (4%) trade them so much vital oil.
    Moreover, in 1953, the one democratically elected government in the Islamic world (that led by Dr Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran) was overthrown by ruthless and undemocratic monarchist reactionaries who set the local Pahlavi gang back in power. This coup was eagerly supported and backed by short-sighted western governments and their security services.
    That set the cause of democracy back a long way in the Islamic world IMHO, and helped the Islamist cause no end. No doubt.
    .
    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/cia-assisted-coup-overthrows-government-of-iran
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat