The hearsay that Tony Abbott, the controversial former prime minister of Australia, is being lined up as a commerce envoy for the UK was a summer time information story few noticed coming.
Showing earlier than the Home of Commons Overseas Affairs Committee, Abbott confirmed that he has had some discussions with members of the British authorities. Nevertheless, whereas he stated he’s “more than pleased to assist”, he insisted that nothing is official “as but”.
Abbott is infamous in Australia for his “ocker” method and outlook. He’s commonly photographed in a pair of “budgie smugglers” with surfboard beneath arm at his beloved Queenscliff seaside in Manly, Sydney.
He’s on document with statements regarding indigenous Australians, the surroundings and the function of girls in society that may take advantage of hardened miner in an area pub wince on the insensitivity. Not many public figures embraced the label “dinosaur”, however even his supporters recognise that Abbott is an unreconstructed instance of Australian chauvinist manhood.
What on Earth, then, might drive the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and his advisers to succeed in out to somebody whose toxicity matches Donald Trump in lots of quarters?
Opinions differ. Some insist that with the UK in dire want of experience in its commerce negotiations, it makes excellent sense to make use of somebody extremely accustomed to the Asia-Pacific financial terrain. The one downside with this speculation is that even in accordance with his shut confidants Abbott had little or no to do with commerce throughout his time period of workplace, or certainly at any time earlier than or after.
Others scent one thing extra suspicious. Abbott is after all a world determine who has moved in influential circles and has sturdy connections, not least with the conservative institution within the US. He strikes in excessive locations among the many coverage wonks, thinktanks and institutes with lavish funds at their disposal to entertain mates and allies. Might this appointment replicate the truth that Abbott is a helpful ally in these circles?
Flying the flag
Certainly there’s a extra apparent clarification. That is that Abbott stands symbolically for a set of values and a political orientation which the Johnson authorities needs to endorse and align itself with.
When it comes to values, Abbott represents a US model of conservatism primarily based on a perception in “household values”, patriotism and the flag. However inside that broad appellation we will additionally determine a distinctively neoconservative stance by way of the assertion of “western” values and the prevalence of the European inheritance, together with however not restricted to the worth of colonialism and imperialism, and what worldwide relations students time period “offensive realism”. That is the view that, in a world of competing ideologies, army conflicts are inevitable.
In brief, Abbott’s world view is under no circumstances dissimilar to that of Steve Bannon, the controversial architect of the primary part of Trump’s administration. Like Bannon, Abbott is an unapologetic tradition warrior. He believes that western societies have misplaced their means and misplaced confidence in themselves. He thinks the west must refind its mojo and reassert the prevalence of its values and lifestyle, notably in relation to the Islamic world and China.
All this suggests a type of everlasting battle towards the forces of the left – corresponding to antifa, the left-liberal institution of universities and the media and the apologists for identification politics, multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism. It additionally means committing to everlasting battle externally, on the hostile terrain that’s world politics. It’s a hawkish, retro view of the world with metropolitan elites, however one virulently supported in Australia by its main newspaper, the Australian, and by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sky Information.
The query stays then, what potential use are all these associations to Johnson? He has strived to confect a picture of innocent amiability with a “large tent” politics. He has sought to be numerous various things to numerous totally different teams so as to safe the hallowed center floor of British electoral politics.
The reply is unquestionably that “tradition battle” of a sort articulated fairly crudely by Abbott and Trump but in addition in Europe by the likes of France’s Marine Le Pen, the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, Italy’s Matteo Salvini and Hungary’s Viktor Orban has proven itself to be standard with voters who don’t usually vote for the proper. The theme is a good way to attract in working class and precariously employed people who find themselves in search of stronger “authority” figures to cope with what they understand to be more and more lawless societies surrendering themselves to immigrants and the multicultural left.
It additionally serves to insulate a regime from the vagaries of public coverage outcomes, of which COVID-19 is the latest and apparent instance. The pandemic is a basic no-win state of affairs for many governments. Play too lax and one will get blamed for too many deaths. Play it too exhausting and one suffers the financial penalties of lockdown. A tradition battle, however, presents a win-win for conservative regimes internationally trying to keep energy.
Hiring Abbott is not going to inoculate the UK authorities towards coverage failure, as such. But it surely sends a powerful sign to Tory MPs and the broader public that this authorities desires to be judged much less on the flimflam of coverage outcomes, over which it has unsure management, and extra on the defence of a sure outlook and a sure lifestyle that it hopes will chime with the voters.
Simon Tormey doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.