After the win of David Leyonhjelm in the senate campaign we are getting a lot of responses, especially form a number of idiots who are giving us gratuitous advice on where we are going wrong.
It is nice though to get the odd one that takes the opposite tack and says what there is to like about him:
I think that David acquitted himself and the LDP well.
In response to Leigh Sales' first question about the right to sit in the Senate, David's reference to voting percentages in WA and SA (where the donkey vote was not a factor) indicating that it was likely the LDP would have got in in NSW anyway was deft and economical.
Sales then sprang a 'gotcha' question on Wayne Dropulich from the Sports Party, trying to paint him as a single-issue representative and show lack of preparation by asking about his party's attitude to repeal of the carbon tax. Mr Dropulich did as well as he could, but it was clear that his party was unprepared.
In contrast, David was able quickly to respond with support for repeal of the carbon tax, but then broaden it to the mining tax also. This showed good preparation as a party and policy breadth (not being a single-issue party). David went further than Sales' question by introducing difference from the Coalition by saying the LDP did not support the former's direct action on climate change, as just throwing money into a black hole with no benefit.
This was good as it quickly introduced a point of differentiation from the Coalition, introduced the public to another LDP policy, and subtly began to position the LDP as more like a serious major party than a crank micro-party. I noticed that it caught the attention of the national columnist Andrew Bolt (Melbourne, Herald Sun) who commented positively on it on the evening show on Sydney's radio 2GB. This is good, as last Thursday he was railing (in ignorance) against the LDP as a silly micro-party having a 'misleading' name that would cause confusion and rob the Liberals of needed votes.
David was also able quickly and succinctly to respond when asked what were the most important issues for the LDP, with short points (lower tax, less bureaucracy, smaller government, less expenditure) that were not only easy to understand but also (a) showed the LDP was not a single-issue party, (b) showed the LDP was concerned with mainstream issues not just fringe ones, (c) were nothing extreme that would worry the average voter but rather would sound reasonable and easy to agree to. All these things are important, but in the context of this particular interview (c) was especially so.
Disappointed that she had got nothing to paint the LDP as the stereotypical fringe/extreme micro-party, Sales then went for a stronger 'gotcha' question: what would you want in return for support of repeal of the carbon tax, reform of Australia's gun laws?
That was a clear 'gotcha' but handled well by David by saying it was a State matter. However, Sales persisted by asking, 'And what are your views on gun control, exactly.' This was her third (and given David's clear answer that it was a State issue and so not relevant to his role as a (prospective) Commonwealth senator, a gratuitous) 'gotcha' attempt (one about the carbon tax, two about guns) to paint the LDP as out of touch with the mainstream. David's answer (the laws tie up the wrong people, don't stop criminals or the shootings in Western Sydney) was very good, planting the LDP back in the mainstream (the last two being of concern to wide sections of Sydney/NSW society) while allowing a subtle appeal to gun owners/enthusiasts. This was a very good response and escape from Sales' third attempted 'gotcha'.
Sales tried one last time, however, with: would you like to see greater access to guns?Again, David's response (licensing is legitimate; other existing restrictions are irrational) was good, calm, and reasonable, and would have been reassuring to viewers who have an irrational response whenever guns are mentioned.
You can see, I think, that Sales' persistence with three leading questions about guns, a topic irrelevant to David's role in the Senate, was a deliberate attempt to label the LDP a certain way. In addition to the content of David's answers, his style of response (low key, reasonable, unruffled) was just as important. It would have suited Sales to have David become brusque or irritable. He didn't, and probably won over some viewers.
Later on, when asked whether he would attempt to block the Liberals' legislative agenda, his answers again were very good by (a) showing a co-operative and responsible attitude (we respect their mandate) but also (b) reasoned independence and (c) integrity (not seek to block the government providing their proposals did not run counter to the LDP's basic principles of reducing tax and increasing liberty), while (d) also presenting pithily those two principles to the wider public.
He then phrased the two principles slightly differently (not increase taxes; not deprive us of any of our freedoms).
I think these two principles, and the two different ways of saying them are winners over the long term. They show that the LDP has principles; they are easy to understand; they are not weird; they will have wide appeal and support in many areas of society. David may get sick of saying them over and over again over the next six years, but they will be good in marketing the LDP brand.
They will need to be repeated until David and journalists get sick of them, because it is only then that they will break through to the large numbers of the general public. One of Tony Abbott's keys to success is this. Repeating the same short, easy to understand things even when he himself may be bored with the repetition. Many of his colleagues cannot do it and make the mistake of trying always to give the journalists something new and shiny. That is a mistake (see Kevin Rudd and his chaotic election campaign and government by media 2007-2010).
In short, I think David had a good first day. He:
presented the LDP as prepared;presented the LDP as not a single-issue party;presented the LDP as concerned with mainstream rather than fringe issues;presented the LDP as prepared to be co-operative and reasonable with the new Government, but also distinct and different from it;
presented the LDP as 'small-l' liberal (and on a different programme said something like, 'if you are of European orientation, classical liberal') and libertarian. This is important as 'libertarian' sadly, due to the antics of crank libertarians in the US in particular, has come to have shades of 'extremist'/'crank' for many people, as we discussed when we met last week;
was calm, unruffled, reasonable; and,side-stepped the traps in which Leigh Sales, in particular, tried to ensnare him (and the party).He, and you, probably understand, but it is always worth repeating, no matter how polite or warm journalists may appear to be they are never a politician's friend.