Flat White

Peta Credlin: better on the outside

14 January 2019

12:21 PM

14 January 2019

12:21 PM

Nine’s dead tree division published a long comment piece by Speccie contributor John Ruddick that amounted to a political love letter to former Abbott chief-of-staff and now Sky News star and News Limited columnist, Peta Credlin, on Saturday.

Labelling Credlin the ‘great Right hope’, Ruddick made a passionate and almost compelling case for Credlin to get Liberal preselection for the federal seat of Mallee, currently held by disgraced sugar daddy and outgoing National party non-entity, Andrew Broad.  He is keenly fuelling the frenzy of speculation that Credlin, a native of the Mallee-fringe town of Wycheproof, will nominate for the Liberals in a three-cornered contest with the Nats and Labor.

Ruddick has been watching the ‘will she or won’t she’ speculation like a hawk, hoping his ‘Amazonian’ candidate will put up her hand.  He sees her as a ‘great leader’ whose ability to attract the critics is itself proof of her greatness.  He cites her principal contribution to making a supposedly unelectable prime minister, Abbott, prime minister. He admires her remaking herself in the aftermath of the Turnbull coup against Abbott.  He even cites televisions greatest narcissist, Piers Morgan, who lately stumbled across a Sky clip of Credlin in full flow. ‘Can we make this Aussie newsreader our (the UK’s) prime minister with immediate effect?’ gushed Piers, seeing a kindred spirit in Peta.

It’s up to Credlin, of course, if she nominates for Mallee, but she must be enjoying the speculation over her future.  Nine’s waste paper is even suggesting today she might have a go in Kevin Andrews’ seat of Menzies.

As Oscar Wilde once said, it’s better to be talked about than not talked about.

But Credlin shouldn’t listen to the ego-massaging siren song of her boosters.  She is indeed a darling of the Liberal base, she is genuinely conservative, and she is a forceful, charismatic and highly intelligent – a potential supernova in a parliament of white dwarves.  Yet her formidable media presence, which excites and inspires many grassroots supporters feeling deserted and needind a champion, does not obscure the reality that she should not be in the media at all, but still Abbott’s CoS helping prime minister Abbott to win a third term.

Credlin, her political style and her command and control leadership were indispensable for opposition, but unsuited for government.  In office, she and Abbott were undermined from enemies within – Turnbull and others – and assailed by the love media from without. That was reprehensible and it’s now very likely the Liberal party shortly will pay the ultimate price for the treachery of 2015 and all that followed.  But controlling access to Abbott so tightly isolated him from his colleagues, especially the swollen if ungrateful 2013 backbench who came to Canberra on his (and Credlin’s) efforts and who he needed to keep onside.  That deteriorating relations between Abbott, his office and the Liberal party room led to the notorious empty chair challenge of February 2015, and the opportunity to change before it was too late was missed.  While Turnbull and his supporters were ungrateful, treacherous and disloyal to the leader who brought them out of the wilderness after only two terms, Credlin bears a significant share of responsibility for the conditions that made Turnbull’s insurgency and coup possible.

It may be history now, but Credlin was part of what went wrong with Abbott as well as what went right.  While she has reinvented herself post-politics as a conservative Boadicea (something for which even opponents hold a grudging admiration of her chutzpah), if she does nominate and goes all the way her political opponents won’t let her forget that, and those surviving Coalition MPs who got offside with her in the Abbott leadership years won’t exactly make her welcome.

To her credit, however, Credlin since September 2015 has found her niche and voice.  Free of political responsibility as a charismatic, no-nonsense Sky New presenter and News Corp columnist, Credlin speaks truth to power even more than she did actually working in politics.  To see how formidable and talented commentator she is, just watch the YouTube video of her recent London interview with UK talk radio’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, and her masterly takedown on Brexit and the woeful state of British politics.

There she showcased the very sort of dominating personality that certain Tory MPs would want to be spanked by. Such brutally honest straight talk is as rare in Pommyland as it is in Australia, and straight talk isn’t what you get from an MP of any persuasion these days.

Like her or not, hers is the sort of dominating right-of-centre presence badly needed to counter the luvvie left who dominate Fairfax, the Guardian and the ABC: rightly or wrongly, when Credlin talks others sit up and take notice.  Credlin currently has a far mightier platform than the mere Opposition backbencher bound by party discipline she would likely be if elected an MP in May would enjoy. Despite the passionate entreaties of her legion of fans, why should she give it up?

In the dark days for Australian conservative politics and ideas that almost certainly lie ahead, Credlin’s greatest value to the Liberal cause is in staying precisely where she is.

She should end the fanboy nonsense being talked about her potential candidacy and rule out nominating for Mallee (or wherever), go on speaking her mind to friend and foe alike via Sky and News, exhort the Morrison government to do its best to contest the looming election as a genuinely centre-right to an increasingly smug and complacent Labor and, if the worst happens, be ready post-election to use her platform and public profile to hold a rampant, populist and dangerously left-wing Shorten government to account.

Illustration: Sky News Australia/Twitter.

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