Science blogging will resume shortly. However, looking at the number of hits I get on my political posts compared to my science posts suggests not many people are fussed.
The video of James Diaz, Liberal candidate for Greenway, making an idiot of himself has achieved cult status with hundreds of thousands of hits. It’s so bad that it made the Huffington Post, who think Rick Perry’s “Ooops” pales by comparison. It hasn’t done too much harm to the Liberal campaign overall, and may even not prevent Diaz winning one of Labor’s most marginal seats.
However, Diaz is hardly unique. In Charlton the Liberal candidate has withdrawn from campaigning after jokes he made about domestic violence surfaced. And in McMahon the Liberals are running a candidate who has advocated having police officers shoot microchips into people they suspect to track their behaviour. He apparently took a science fiction film as evidence the technology exists. Leaving aside his racist approach to women wearing facial coverings, he’s also a close mate of the one of Australia’s most notoriously corrupt former police officers. It’s little wonder Abbott was so keen to praise the “sex appeal of the his candidate for Lindsay – it’s not as though most of those the party is putting up in Western Sydney and the Hunter have much else he can say to recommend them.
It’s true not all the Liberal candidates for Labor held seats in NSW are hopeless. Michael Fenely, their candidate for Kingsford-Smith has a very impressive cv. However, he appears to be close to 60, suggesting he probably won’t have a long career in parliament. Still, that’s better than Andrew Nguyen, their candidate for Fowler, who is 70. I’d certainly accept that older parliamentarians can continue to make a contribution, but starting one’s time in parliament at that age it is rather unlikely to lead to a ministerial call-up. In Cunningham the Liberals are running someone who lists 35 years in his most recent career, after previous experience as a coal miner. Presumably he is close to retirement age as well.
Some of these seats are on substantial margins, but in the current environment it is far from out of the question, and this would have been even more the case when preselection was conducted.
Nor is this a one-off. In 2010 ten Coalition candidates were either dumped, or probably would have been if their flaws had emerged in time. Moreover this should be the circumstance in which it was easy to find candidates – a government deeply unpopular with the opposition’s base will usually bring people out of the woodwork to run, offering a multiplicity of choices. It will be much harder when they’re in government and making the choices that alienate some of their supporters.
I haven’t even taken a look at their candidates for WA or Queensland.
Exactly what went wrong in these cases is not clear. Was there a shortage of alternatives, where the branches stacked (allegedly the case for Diaz) or did the average genuine Liberal Party member not see a problem with these people as candidates? I’m not sure.
However, one thing is clear. This is going to get worse, not better. While some of their candidates currently look both young and talented, The Liberal Party membership is falling over the long term. Any temporary upswing caused by the troubles of the current government will fade soon after they return to power. With estimates reporting that two thirds of their members are over 60 the pool of talent within the party to choose from will fall further, ensuring that these sorts of problem candidates expand from potentially winnable to safe seats.
The older candidates may serve out their time on the backbench, but the likes of Diaz will be more restless, and weight of numbers will force future leaders to promote them. Many people may be appalled by the extremism of figures like Corey Bernardi, but frankly, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Update: The Age is running a story on a LNP volunteer who was convicted of a terrorist bomb hoax some time ago. I’m a bit torn on whether this is a story that should have even been run. Obviously if he was helping Labor or the Greens it would be front page in the News Limited papers for at least a couple of days in succession, so that in a sense means there is a reason for Fairfax to run it. Still, having idiots as volunteers doesn’t say all that much about the party. No party is so overrun with helpers it gets to check them for suitability, even if it had the time. So, no, I don’t think this adds to the evidence for my case.
It would, however, be nice if the conservatives, even occasionally, applied the same logic of giving people who have screwed up another go to someone who wasn’t middle class and white.