The ingratitude of the electorate

John Howard was not only defeated as Prime Minister of Australia, but lost even his own seat in Parliament. An analysis of the results in the Weekly Standard points out some interesting historical parallels. Winston Churchill was defeated in the 1945 election and Labour took over Parliament in spite of Churchill’s success in defending western civilization. He told his wife, Clementine, that he did not wish to be responsible for the affairs of the British voters for a minute longer than necessary, once the results were known. That is probably the height of ingratitude by voters, a 10 on a scale of 10, although there are modern analyses that suggest his lack of a domestic agenda was a factor. “The Beveridge Report, (which proposed the NHS Ed) therefore, presented the Prime Minister with a golden opportunity to reinvent himself as the leader of a party seriously concerned with social questions. What was more, acceptance of the report was not the only option – the party could have decided to devise and publicise an alternative prospectus. Churchill, however, completely missed the opportunity.” Churchill, in fact, was a classical liberal who had broken with the Conservative Party over the Irish Home Rule bill and who had supported measures to alleviate the burden of the poor in the early 1920s. In 1945, however, he had a war to win and seems to have ignored any other consideration. His problem was that the voters considered it won and had begun to think about the post-war period.

Last week, the most recent example of the startling rejection of a successful leader was seen in Australia. The defeat of Prime Minister John Howard after four hugely successful terms was a shocker. It is compared, and I think with good reason, with the defeat of Margaret Thatcher in 1990. The difference was that the Conservative Party, itself, ousted her, only to lose the next election to Labour and Tony Blair. In Howard’s case, he has been criticized for failing to withdraw and allow a successor to take his place before the election. The truth is that his agenda had all been accomplished and his Labour successor will, like Tony Blair adopt almost all of his reforms. The Australian Labour Party was wise in choosing a leader from Queensland, the most conservative of Australian states. Rudd, the new PM, has already announced he “has made a commitment to keep the government’s finances in order by maintaining budget surpluses and to preserve the central bank’s independence to set interest rates.” Howard paid off the national debt and his policies have seen Australia take off economically. Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking technocrat seems determined to follow the Blair path, even to his emphasis on climate change. Environmentalism is safe as long as you don’t actually plan to implement those Kyoto treaties.

Of course, there is always wishful thinking.

Tags: , , , ,

10 Responses to “The ingratitude of the electorate”

  1. doombuggy says:

    From the Weekly Standard link:

    “Voters wanted new leadership, provided it was competent.”

    Maybe the voters of West Virginia will eventually vote out Robert Byrd. I caught a glimpse of him on C-span, chairing a hearing. It was embarrassing.

  2. Vivian Louise says:

    That Robert Byrd remains in the Senate is an endless source of embarrassment to me, a fellow human. I can’t imagine why they continue to elect him. Or Ted Kennedy.

    Churchill said it, or I think he did: The worst form of government is democracy; except for all the others.

  3. Nancy says:

    That Robert Byrd remains in the Senate is an endless source of embarrassment to me, a fellow human.

    You. Are. Hilarious.

  4. Eric Blair says:

    Reminds me of the whole Strom Thurmond business from a couple of years ago. I doubt the Kleagle is still running his political operation—heck, how old is he now?—so it is more likely that his staff is running the show.

    Who elected them?

    But then, what the heck do I know? The Churchill quote is apt.

  5. cassandra says:

    Re: Howard, parliamentary politics are so different. It seems like the PM’s term always ends like this. I would be damn glad to get out myself. But that’s just me.

    Isn’t Strom dead?

  6. Eric Blair says:

    Strom was dead for many years prior to his heart stopping, I think. Again, his staff ran everything.

    Okay, that’s just my opinion.

  7. doombuggy says:

    Thurmond died in 2003.

    Byrd clicked over to 90 this year. I’m sure his staff runs the show, i.e. unelected, barely accountable. Nice work if you can get it, or stand it.

  8. I’ll let you in on a secret: the staff runs almost every Senate office. They write the speeches and the legislation. One exception, probably, is Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. There are probably others. Many years ago, I met with Senator Durenberger with a group of CMA representatives. He told us that he was the ONLY member of the Senate who understood healthcare. He also told us that doctors would be screwed. There are other Senators who make themselves experts on legislation. McCain on defense; Coburn on earmarks. They are few. Most spend their careers gettng elected or getting drunk.

  9. Vivian Louise says:

    It’s not surprising that so few actually know anything about what they vote on considering the ponderous language and legnth of the bills. And the arrogance needed to maintain that level of pomposity in public.

  10. Eric Blair says:

    Vivian Louise, that is what I tell my students. After one class, they know more biology that all but about three members of Congress..and those folks *vote* on issues involving the life sciences often. I say it to scare the students, and it does.