The Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party has been extremely successful in creating a credible story about the Labor Party and economic management. Only a few days ago Costello artlessly dropped the "recession" word into an interview. No factual basis for it, of course, but it reinforced the automatic association between Labor and "recession we had to have" and, by extension, Labor's record of economic stewardship more generally. $96 billion: ring a bell or three?
It has been stunningly successful. Every time you kick out a Labor government, the country's finances are in a mess: inflation, foreign debt, unemployment and so on.
It is not the purpose here to go into the rights and wrongs. Once you dig beneath the figures you get a slightly different story (eg global economic conditions as a major factor behind the recession we had to have). And when you look to actual acts of government (eg the Accord, tariff reduction, a competitive banking sector and the big one, floating the dollar), you get another perspective on which party had the vision and the guts to make the changes that actually affect things.
Rather, it's the power of stories, and this particular story has been very successful.
It seems to us here in Chateau VVB (awaiting a Brisbane storm, bring it on) that there is a similar story that can be told about conservative Australian governments.
It goes a bit like this. When you come to the end of a period of conservative (Liberal, or Coalition if you insist***) government, there is also a pattern of how the situation can be perceived. You usually have sections of the populace doing it hard or actively discriminated against (eg aborigines, pensioners, carers, gays); this has started leading to a fracturing of society; we are in an unpopular or unnecessary war; and overt interference in personal choice is becoming more evident, especially if it involves what you do with your rude bits or which art you prefer.
It's of course a gross simplification and it's only partially true, which makes it a good match for the opposite story. But it could be made into something awfully compelling, couldn't it?
"Remember Vietnam? Remember Iraq? Who got us into those? Do you see a pattern?"
Now, we've said before that Chateau VVB is no political strategist. And it's easy to see why. Certainly you wouldn't run a whole campaign around such a story (oh, that's what Howard is doing now? really? well, let's see what happens then...). But it could conceivably be worked up into one of those narratives that you could usefully drop into a speech or a retort here and there, to some cumulative effect. What do you think?
In the interests of fairness, I must provide the counter argument. Remember last year when Downer tried to run a line about how the Liberals were the party of big, outward looking, international ideas, not Labor? It sank without trace because the dominant narrative has always been the opposite. Even Keating's comment about flying over South East Asia to get to Paris didn't damage that understanding. So, there are evident difficulties in trying to get traction on a new story.
(***) Finally, they have higher interest rates in the bush. Words fail me on the Nationals, they do not have a clue. It's not in Chateau VVB's nature to feel sorry for John Howard, but every time Vaille or one of his intellectually challenged mates opens his mouth, Howard must just cringe.
Finally, finally. It's raining. Send 'er down, Huey.