Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Promise from the Heart IV

[If this post appears poorly formatted on your screen, I can assure that it has everything to do with a small disagreement that my router and Blogger appear to be having.  Apologies.  Hopefully they will work it out soon.]

In the first year or two of a new government, often all the talk can be about mandates and political capital.

There are two ways to burn political capital: by doing good but unpopular stuff, and by screwing up.  O'Farrell is doing plenty of the former, but the latter is starting to eat away at his capital.  After all, he did promise this in his Contract with NSW:

I've written previously about what kind of mandate the O'Farrell government has.  In short, given that the Coalition was elected after making precious few promises (as Labor's "Don't give them a blank cheque" campaign tried to convince us), it is my view that O'Farrell has a mandate to do pretty much whatever he wants, given that the voters didn't seem worried about his vague and often threadbare promises.

The issue of political capital is a more subtle one, and it all relates to the next election. 

Any politician who gets elected to any office has their eye on the next election. Depending on the quantum of the victory, there may be an opportunity to do some actual good, despite it being unpopular or politically inexpedient, and not risk a backlash big enough to lose the next time round.

It goes without saying that the bigger the margin of victory, the bigger the capital to "spend".

In the US, Obama has spent most of his political capital on health reform - and, given the history of health reform in the US, it is difficult to imagine a more deserving target.  He has copped an absolute hammering for it, but the size of his win in 2008 as well as the enduring goodwill towards him should be enough to see him comfortably reelected later this year, economic woes notwithstanding.

One of the (many) reasons that Gillard has struggled so in the polls federally is that she did not really have the political capital to push through a reform as inevitably unpopular as a Carbon Price.  The issue is far more complicated than that, but suffice to say that if she has won the 2010 election by 40 seats she could have easily sailed a Carbon Price through the parliament safe in the knowledge that she had the buffer to withstand the resultant attacks.

As it is, she sits on a 27% primary vote, due in no small part to a reform she didn't really have the capital to pursue.

In Queensland, Newman has been swept to power with an eye-popping majority,  He has the capital to do pretty much whatever he wants - although at the moment he seems content to use it to piss of writers for no good reason.

O'Farrell won the last election big - big enough that all he needs to do is stay upright and he will have 8 years.  Imagine what he could achieve in 8 years?  Imagine knowing that you have that amount of time to reform a state and to be remembered as a great leader in this state's history?

He has started a number of infrastructure projects that were long overdue.  Those projects will cost a lot of money, and (on balance) he will probably have to wear some hurt for that.

He has given Greg Smith (the Attorney General) the freedom to pursue a thoroughly excellent agenda of reforming our Laura Norda policies and undo some of the damage done by decades of competition to prove who was toughest on crime.

These steps are thoroughly respectable and excellent uses of the political capital he has accumulated. But the media in NSW is far too used to writing nsw political scandal, and Robertson has been all too eager to stoke to fire, even when it was thoroughly unjustified.

In fact, I've written previously about perceived scandals that were pure confection:

- Stoner and the solar panels (100% smoke and mirrors)
- Cansdell and the drink drive (immediately diffused by his ignoble resignation)
- a nameless minister accused of a sex offence

The Grimshaw debacle is the first mud to really stick though.  And it all arises out of O'Farrell's failure to take decisive action.

I've written about the issue previously.  Suffice to say, given what we now know (and what O'Farrell must have known and therefore expected to be revealed for some time) it seems inevitable that Grimshaw could never be allowed to return to work in O'Farrell's office.

Maybe it was loyalty that stayed O'Farrell's hand until now. Maybe it was arrogance. I don't know, but either way the drama has givent the Terror a reason to write this editorial.

It is more than a little hysterical, but these paragraphs are going to ring true:

I usually try and avoid quoting The West Wing on this blog, because it seems a little naff - but in this context, it's hard to go past this quote:

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