Dismissed by the Liberal Party’s ascendant Labor-lite faction as thick and woolly, restive conservatives have long memories to go with their principles. They’re waiting and watching and ready when the time is right to make their move, certainly at the ballot box and, quite possibly, via other means
In America they have their RINOs, as in ‘Republicans In Name Only’. Despite their party’s boilerplate support for free enterprise, the wisdom of markets and government being the servant of the people rather than vice versa, these ostensible representatives of conservatism vote tirelessly for bigger government, higher taxes, cradle-to-grave welfare, open borders, appeasement and, perhaps their worst folly, they make nice with liberals in vain and misguided attempts to be liked and, if all goes well, score the odd invitation to appear on left-dominated US media outlets.
In Australia, we have LINOs, which could not be a more appropriate acronym, given that our Liberals In Name Only are happy to let the left and its media agents walk all over the conservative principles their Liberal Party professes to hold dear. As our latest Prime Minister can attest, the ABC just loves conservatives who aren’t really conservative and will promote them tirelessly. Until an election is called, that is.
It is open to debate, but Don Chipp may have been the first LINO. Back in 1977, he felt there was no place within the Coalition for his range of policies. So the Australian Democrats were founded. How did that turn out? Well, in 2015, after 38 glorious years of deal-making with governments of left and right persuasions, the Australian Democrats were de-registered. Is there a lesson there? I submit that there is: Move to the centre. Lose your identity. End up with no party at all.
We all know that the passionate grassroots of a party, the sorts who hand out how to votes and keep branches ticking over in the lean, opposition years, tend to have more firmly held political views, be they of the left or right, than the larger voting public. We also know that straddling the fence on political issues is uncomfortable at best, likely to result in an unceremonious fall.
So, what’s the alternative? Since September last year there has been an unofficial new movement in Australia dedicated to replacing our elected LINOs with something better. At a risk of being just a tad too cute, let me dub them the CARPETs — Conservative Australians Reeling from the Public Execution of Tony.
What are CARPETs like? Some are woolly. Some are worn by age, although their colours and fine patterns still show through. Unlike LINOs, who wipe themselves clean after every electoral calamity and return happily to a supine acceptance of the left’s boot heel, CARPETs retain the stains and memory of earlier mishaps. They endure but they don’t forget, in other words. More often than not dismissed by the left Establishment as woolly and thick, their hidden virtue is that they don’t slip. LINOs, by contrast, are awash with the latest fashionable causes and forever wet, which makes for a certain treachery. In any debate, LINOs can never provide more than an uncertain footing.
CARPETs also tend to be quieter than LINOs, who reflect much of the noise and bustle around them. Just now, CARPETs feel as if they have been hung out to dry. Beaten even. They are watching quietly — sullenly would be a better word — as their party’s new direction charts a parallel course with that of the Opposition.
They see a new leader ostentatiously taking tea with Gillian Triggs, who worked so tirelessly to generate so many of the stories and faux scandals that were heaped upon his predecessor.
They see wind farms back in favour and know that taxes are being poured once again into the pockets of rent seekers.
The see the endemic bias of the national broadcaster and note that no effort whatsoever has been made to see it hire its first, its very first, prime-time conservative host.
They see a defence establishment seemingly more concerned with the construction of transgender bathrooms than identifying future enemies and formulating how best to foil them.
They see palace politics and court eunuchs plotting and scheming to winkle out conservatives and award preselections to yet more LINOs.
More than that, they remind each other that only parties gaining first-preference votes get AEC funding and mull the ballot-paper alternatives they might mark as #1. Some even mutter about the need for a split, knowing that when they tear up the LINOs once and for all, they will find a charter of conservative principles underneath.
They know that for all the initial shine and gloss, LINOs loose their lustre. When they do, when they are uprooted nationwide by the sort of 13+% swing that went against them at the recent North Sydney byelection, the moment will be ripe to cart them out into the cold for collection on the next hard-rubbish night.
CARPETs see all this and quietly keep the faith. They know their day will come.