Saturday, February 13, 2010

Miranda Devine, David Clarke, Opus Dei, and the right ranting as usual ...

(Above: Slim Pickens shows the NSW Liberal right how to do it. Start World War 111 that is, not start to fix up NSW after the depredations of the Labor party).

You have to hand it to Miranda the Devine. Is there anywhere in the land that you can find more perfectly formed, finely ground, lovingly shaped drivel?

Here she is with a lay down misere, which is to say a chance to attack the NSW government. Perhaps even expound on the make glorious benefit for NSW future under a Liberal party with grand plans to fix up the state.

And instead manages to produce Small targets and no bold vision.

Well the fate of NSW is only a hill of beans in this troubled world - yes indeed, who could imagine the Herald would lead today with a story announcing that the metro should be put on hold for ten years, yet come up with a header Finally, a plan that will get Sydney moving.

Yeah, sure, finally a plan to win world war 11 in a year.

But not content with such easy free kicks, the Devine decides to intervene in the war between David Clarke, right wing power broker, and his former protege, Alex Hawke, taking Clarke's side, blissfully unaware that surely the main cloud in the Liberal plan to wrench government from the Labor party is Clarke and his conservative Catholic ways:

Clarke engineered the right's resurgence in the NSW party after years of left faction control, giving it a better chance of appealing to its conservative base.

Say what? It's not the conservative base that counts, you silly Devine, it's the swinging voters in the middle. By definition, the conservative base are already on board. But how do you attract secularists, humanists, and tired old former lefties to the cause if David Clarke stands atop the party like a colossus of Rhodes?

But the bad feeling caused by the power shift damaged his standing. Despite O'Farrell's successful push for unity between the left and right factions, which culminated in a rapprochement between Clarke and left powerbroker Michael Photios, the image stuck that Clarke was a religious extremist, leading the "Taliban hard right" of the party.

That is a mischievous characterisation of a man whose "extremism" runs to being a Catholic who attends Mass, is married to a member of Opus Dei, and holds conservative social positions in line with much of the electorate.

Say what? He holds conservative social positions in line with much of the electorate? Like the Catholic church's assorted lines on social issues? Like Cardinal George Pell? Like members of Opus Dei?

Newsflash. Opus Dei is the Taliban of the Catholic church, and a most unattractive Taliban at that. Though I do believe they allow sacred music.

How delusional can you get?

David Clarke is a right royal conservative of the old fashioned kind.

While not a member, he's a "co-operator" of the Opus Dei prelature, he's a monarchist, a supporter of traditional marriage, takes the standard line on the "culture of abortion", describes Australia as a "Christian nation", and even former colleagues have publicly worried about the people around him being absolutely fixated on their agenda, and a very narrow agenda it is.

For the sake of the lord, he even spent his maiden speech praising Bob Santamaria as a man of heroic virtue. And he argued that the age of consent should be 18!

He is the very model of a model right wing Christian conservative of an extremely old fashioned kind, and if you have a taste for this kind of thinking, a kind of nostalgia for the nineteen fifties, his wiki entry here will offer you some highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be).

And there's plenty of handy links, including to The Religion Report (ah, remember good old days at the ABC), wherein Clarke speaks to his faith, and the program makers claim that this was the first time an Australian Member of Parliament publicly declared his involvement with Opus Dei:

When you visit his office in New South Wales Parliament House, the first thing you notice is the crucifix standing by the phone on his desk. Over his shoulder a picture of the Virgin and Child and a black and white photograph of St Josemaria de Balaguer, founder of the conservative Catholic movement, Opus Dei. There are several books about Islam. And a handsome commendation from the Croatian community on the wall.

But back to the Devine:

... Hawke and his allies, including the party president, Nick Campbell, evidently decided Clarke was unwelcome baggage in a post-Howard world, and set about taking over his power base, pitching themselves as the "sensible right", while being dubbed by their enemies the "ambition faction".

Unwelcome baggage? The sensible right vs the loony Opus Dei right?

Oh surely not, surely we should all be going around wearing a cilice and experiencing a little bit of pain for the lord.

But don't start me on Opus Dei, we could be here all day.

Their choice as Clarke's replacement in the north-west province is the unprepossessing former deputy chief of the Australian Hotels Association, David Elliott, whose potential contribution to the party's future is inversely proportional to the strife his elevation will cause.

Unprepossessing? Which is to say that David Clarke is prepossessing? And that if he doesn't get the nod, World War 111 will break out, in the manner of petulant tribal players who can't accept a decision that goes against them?

Yep, it's yet another M.A.D. day in the trenches of the Liberal party:

The outbreak of hostilities within the right faction has already led to all sorts of hasty deals with the left, which will have destabilising consequences for years.

Oh dear, at a time when most people in NSW would just settle for a government with managerial skills - you know, tend the schools, fix up the health system, get a transport system and get it running on time - and show some managerial vision in the way of preparing for the future - you know, get hold of a new Bradfield and let him design a few ways forward - the Liberal party is busy ripping out its intestines, so that Miranda the Devine can hold up its guts to the world.

See here, look at what the Liberal left has done, destabilised the Liberal right for a thousand years.

Alan Jones, the most influential broadcaster among Liberal voters, has been ripping into Hawke and Campbell every fortnight for five months as a "cancer" on the party.

Alan Jones? That cancer on NSW? The man who single handedly makes commercial radio unendurable, and Kyle Sandilands sound like a man with more sensitivity than Ghengis Khan?

YouTube videos depict the young MP as everything from Hitler to Machiavelli to a Chippendale stripper. He must have a tin ear and a rhino's hide.

And if he's got as rhino's hide, what does it say about the hide of the wretches who've uploaded the Hitler video without any payment to the Godwin's Law swear jar? He must have a tin ear? What about the fuckwits who play politics in this kind of way? What about their bloody tin ear?

Well there's none so deaf and tin-eared as a Devine in full flight, and on she goes:

His jihad against Clarke is in defiance of federal leader Tony Abbott who has publicly and privately asked Hawke for peace, and goes against a letter of support for Clarke from O'Farrell, who has been in China this week.

Jihad? You mean now it's the Islamics v Opus Dei? And Tony Abbott has intervened on the side of the Catholic Church? Well as Scarlett O'Hara should have said, and Annie Hall did, La-di-dah, La-di-dah.

What other references can the Devine provide?

Clarke also has endorsements from such Liberal luminaries as senators Nick Minchin, Cory Bernardi, Helen Coonan and shadow NSW attorney-general Greg Smith, for whom he works as parliamentary secretary.

Nick Minchin! Cory Benardi! Say no more.

With such an array of heavy hitters on his side it would be a serious embarrassment to the party if Clarke were rolled.

Well not so much of a serious embarrassment as if the baleful Clarke continues to sit in the upper house pursuing his conservative social agenda like a Liberal Fred Nile. Only on the right side of the angels, it almost goes without saying ... (that other mob are on a one way ticket to hell because of their theological errors and failure to bend the knee to the papists).

The acid is on O'Farrell to get off the fence, exert his authority to ensure Clarke's seat is safe, demand the end to Hawke's malign influence and keep the peace with an iron fist.

At this point, you are allowed to dissolve into quietly hysterical laughter, as the right devours itself yet again. The acid is on O'Farrell? The acid is on Clarke to get his shit together, and if he can't, let him be rolled, instead of rushing off and being cry baby to O'Farrell, Abbott, the Devine and anyone else who'll listen to his whining.

It will be a test of his mettle at a time when disquiet about his leadership and lacklustre poll ratings is openly discussed by senior party members, with specific complaints that he does not embrace advice and offers of assistance from Liberal elder statesmen.

Yeah, roll over, suck up to the right, give David Clarke a foot bath or perhaps suck on his toes, and that'll show the stern mettle you're made of Barry. How about imitating a lap poodle and a purring domesticated cat while you're at it?

Because if you don't do the right thing, the right will take you down. Remember it's world war 111, and they have their nukes standing by:

"There is a growing body of opinion that Barry is not up to it," said one strategist. O'Farrell's small-target strategy makes his team a "moribund bunch with very little energy" and few policies.

Oops, second warning, and three strikes and you're out.

But stay a moment, don't be alarmed Barry, the right can mutter some grudging concessionary words that sound friendly, in much the same way as a shark might ask you to take a look at its handsome teeth before getting down to its evening meal:

Which is not entirely fair. O'Farrell is a pleasant, amusing man with an endearing habit of self-deprecation.

A pleasant, amusing, endearing man! Lordy, please Bazza, whatever you do, don't faint from the excessive praise. A self-deprecatory man like you would just love to be called pleasant, even if the implication is that you're not the sharpest knife in the drawer, might have a few sheep loose in the top paddock, might even be a bit of a buffoon - in a pleasant, amusing way.

And now for those tremendous policy ideas:

The NSW Liberal Party website is full of policy ideas, and Gladys Berejiklian and Jillian Skinner have been presenting worthwhile positions on the crucial portfolios of transport and health, which have been overshadowed by soap opera turmoil in the government.

Stop already, enough with the policy ideas, which have been overwhelmed by the government.

Let's get back to the soap opera at hand.

When last we left the Liberal party's days of its lives, we'd discovered that the Liberal party is full of pleasant, amusing, self-deprecatory people and policy ideas.

Now read on:

In this week's episode, we discover that David Clarke is a policy free zone, apart from a narrow socially conservative agenda, happy to fight political and religious wars, and with remarkably little to contribute in the areas that count - education, health and transport. Naturally this means he deserves the full support of soap opera viewers everywhere, or else world war three will break out, or at least a bout of premature hubris.

But what is fair to say about the NSW Liberals is that the ill-discipline of the Hawke-Clarke row indicates premature hubris has set in, with some party apparatchiks banking so much on winning office they're said already to be making plans for dividing the spoils of government.

At Liberal cocktail parties MPs talk about "when", not "if", they win the 2011 election, and the emphasis is on not making mistakes rather than inspiring the masses with a clear vision of what they stand for.

Out of the jaws of victory, some people can always seize defeat. It's been the modus operandi of the NSW Liberal Party for a while.

And who's to blame for all of that, and who's to blame for the ongoing civil war, and who's to blame for the scything of moderates and managerial types who don't muscle up to the conservative social agenda?

Sssh, whatever you do, don't mention David Clarke.

Well there's only one other thing to note. Anybody who receives the enthusiastic support of Miranda the Devine is a prime candidate for loon pond, but perhaps not so useful in a state Liberal party seeking to bring down the Labor party ... especially in a state which boasts the hedonism of the emerald city as a riposte the extremism of Opus Dei and the Pellist heresy ...

(Below: better gay than Opus Dei).

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