A few weeks ago I suggested that I couldn’t understand why Theresa (Dis)May called an election. She had everything to lose and very little to gain.
Ok, she was riding high in the polls and, even though she had three years before she had to face the people – in her case, for the first time as PM – she decided that she needed to shore up her support and get a “strong mandate” for Brexit. While some saw it as a cynical attempt to take advantage of Corbyn’s supposed lack of electoral appeal, it was generally thought to be a good political move. And, just like when the US banks were bundling loans together and selling off the risk before the GFC, there was no risk.
However, Theresa (Dis)May got a surprise. Who would have thought it? (Ok, well I did suggest that it was possible a few weeks ago, but nobody takes me seriously!) Of course, that’s the thing about surprises: They’re surprising. Otherwise they wouldn’t be a surprise and they’d be that other thing which we call predictable. If a thing is predictable, it’s not a surprise. But to me the surprising thing is that anybody is actually surprised about the surprise.
To explain what I mean, let’s look at the world of the past few years. Ok, we can’t expect a British PM to have heard about Campbell Newman going from a record majority to losing the next election when the only thing he’d done wrong was to be a complete dickhead, but we could expect that she’d be more familiar with British politics where the following things have happened in the recent past:
- In 2015, David Campbell’s Conservative Party is re-elected in a surprise result.
- He surprisingly calls for a vote on leaving the EU.
- The “leave” campaign surprisingly wins in spite of having Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson arguing for it.
- David Cameron quits as PM less than a year after being re-elected. Perhaps not a surprise after the vote, but certainly not expected at the start of the year.
So, in 2017, thinks Theresa, let’s call an election because I’m not expecting a surprise. After all, Donald Trump was elected in the USA, so it’s not like anything is possible. No, I’ll go to the polls, increase my majority and I won’t even need to debate Corbyn because nobody likes him. Yes, half the country did vote against Brexit, and, yes, we don’t have compulsory voting, but I am expecting all those people who voted for David last time and who voted against Brexit to come out and vote for me to give me a massive mandate. And no, I’m not expecting any protest vote because some people think we’re going to win so they feel safe voting for other parties just to let us know that they think we’re a bunch of out-of-touch wankers. I’m sure that my support for the re-introduction of fox hunting will be the sort of policy that shows that we understand that people are doing it tough…
But in a world of such unpredictability, it’s good to know that there are still some things you can rely on! Take Tony Abbott.
While both major parties, business, scientists and others all agree that we need to find some sort of bipartisan policy on energy, Tony decided to pre-empt the Finkel Report by declaring that the Liberal Party needed to be the party of “cheap power”… Rather ironic, when I think about it.
Anyway, Tony was concerned that the Finkel Report could lead to coal-generated power going from its current 65% to around 20%. Given that a large chunk of the report was about ensuring energy security, I haven’t been able to work out why it’s a concern, beyond the current fetish that some Liberals have for handling lumps of coal. If battery storage gets to the point when renewables could deliver 100% of our energy needs, why would need to send men into the mines to dig up coal? (Actually, even if we still needed coal, it’s far more likely that all mining will be automated, depriving our workers of not only jobs, but fringe benefits like black lung disease and industrial accidents!)
But no, apparently coal will still be good for humanity and any attempt to replace it isn’t just unrealistic, it’s also somehow wrong. We have a moral obligation to sell our coal. If God hadn’t wanted us to mine it, he wouldn’t have put it in the ground! (By the way, you can have a lot of fun with the same argument when you apply it to sex, drugs, alcohol or just about anything considered sinful by the person proposing the theory. For example, “If God hadn’t wanted me to practise bestiality, why did he make sheep so damned attractive?”)
And, of course, let’s not forget Malcolm Roberts when talking about certainty in an uncertain world. You can be certain that Malcolm’s argument will go like this:
- Empirical evidence is the only thing that matters.
- Because I know this, I must be clever.
- Because I am clever, I must be right.
- This is empirical evidence, and if you don’t see that, then you are ignoring the facts.
- If you bring up evidence that doesn’t agree with my point of view, it must be from some organisation that is pushing a political agenda and can be safely ignored because it’s not empirical evidence.
- If you attempt to argue with me, we shall go back to Point 1 and start all over again.
Yes, it’s good to be sure of some things in a world full of surprises. I mean, lots of things are uncertain but at least we know we can rely on people like Tony and Malcolm Roberts. Just like we know that when Malcolm Turnbull goes into the party room to argue that we need to find a bipartisan policy on energy, that he’ll be rolled and have to find some way to spin it as though it was Labor’s fault. Of course, this gets harder each time he has to blame Labor because, as Tony found out, you can only do that so many times before people start asking when you’re going to do something to actually fix things… Or in Turnbull’s case, when you’re actually going to do something.
Perhaps a new leader could blame Labor another dozen times before they start to look incompetent too.