Patience, Allan: How conservative or populist is the contemporary Right in Australian politics?

Allan Patience

How conservative or populist is the contemporary Right in Australian politics?’ Pearls and Irritations, 14 February 2017

Examines the relationship between current apparently conservative outbreaks in Australian politics and superficially similar incidences overseas as well as historical parallels. The verdict?

The plain fact is that the conservative political tradition has little in common with Bernardi’s politics … In short the essence of traditional conservatism is the very antithesis of the bastardized version of individualism that is at the core of Cory Bernardi’s neoliberal ideology. Indeed, conservatism’s vision of a well-regulated, harmonious and cooperative society has more in common with socialism than it does with the welfare state-hating, free market ideology of the economic rationalists among whom Bernardi is now looking for new political bedfellows …

There are some slight similarities between those [19th century populist] movements and the supporters of One Nation in contemporary Australian politics. But to call this populism is a misnomer. One Nation’s support base is mainly coming from angry voters who are probably now permanently alienated from the ignorant elitism of mainstream politics. They may vote One Nation because right now there is nowhere else for them to go. A clever (or frighteningly cynical) leader could easily win them over. Moreover, One Nation’s politicians are hardly classical populists in the Russian or mid-West American mould. They are simply narcissitic opportunists jumping on a bandwagon they think they control. But not for long.

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