You need to be a super spy to find a Turnbull supporter
It’s Monday morning and my phone rings. The voice on the other end of the line booms “You mission should you choose to accept it is to find out what people think of Malcolm Turnbull. Do you accept?”
Ok so sometimes in my head, interning at The Punch is a bit like working for a spy organisation such as the CIA, ASIO, or all too often CONTROL.
I find myself sent on assignments all over the place, dealing with sometime hostile encounters and always gathering information to send back to HQ for analysis.
But I’m okay with this, because as a kid I dreamt of being a secret agent and yes perhaps grew up having watched one too many reruns of Get Smart.
The problem is, like my hero Maxwell Smart; I’m way too clumsy to be a real life secret operative. This sad reality has meant I’ve had to reluctantly accept that this long held ambition will never be fulfilled.
Malcolm Turnbull knows a thing or two about spies after all he made his name defending the famous Spycatcher case.
But there is something else we share, unfulfilled ambition.
In Malcolm’s case his childhood ambition was to be Prime Minister, but over the last couple of weeks the media has eagerly predicted the end of his childhood dream.
And thus HQ sent, The Punch’s very own Agent 86, on assignment to Eastwood and Parramatta malls in an attempt to gain some reconnaissance on just what the public thought of Malcolm.
As I later told HQ the news wasn’t good. These two suburbs are located in the heart of the Federal seats of Bennelong and Parramatta and for the Liberal Party they need to be won if it is to return to government.
Now as a journalist (my cover for the purposes of this story) when you approach most people in a public place, for what is known in the trade as a ‘vox pop’, many people treat you with a level a disdain usually reserved for door to door salespeople or telemarketers.
In most cases you have about 10 seconds to deliver the spiel before they walk past. The spiel usually begins with “Hi there, I promise I’m not selling anything (i.e. I won’t take your money), I’m a journalist (i.e. establish some level of trust and or credibility) and was wondering if you had 60 seconds for a quick interview (i.e. I won’t take up much of your time.)”
Many avoid eye contact, walk to avoid you and those that fail these two tricks usually have important meetings, appointments or buses/trains/ferries/airplanes to catch.
If you lucky you’ll get one in 5 people to stop. That is unless you have a secret weapon and as the unfulfilled secret agent I wished to be, I did.
That weapon was the words “about Malcolm Turnbull”.
If you can tack those three words on the end of the spiel then the success rate went up dramatically. In fact people who have walked past you would often turn back just to have their say.
You see everyone (over the age of 30, interestingly) has an opinion about Malcolm and given the opportunity they will gladly share them with you.
Well it’s perhaps no big surprise that Labor voters generally dislike Turnbull, but the sense of discomfort from people who described themselves as swinging voters must be of concern to the Liberal Party.
But what must terrify the Liberals is the number of self described Liberal voters who said they were disappointed in Turnbull’s leadership.
Many of these people said they expected big things from the former Rhodes Scholar and while they intended to stay with the party at the next election a number of them said it would be a reluctant vote.
Ask people to describe Malcolm political achievements or what they like about him, the most favourable response you get is from Siobhan from Pyrmont who says she liked what he did in pushing for a republic. But as Siobhan herself pointed out that was a long time ago…
Ask for more recent achievements and you get quiet a few blank faces. Sadly for the Liberals you don’t get blank faces on the question of where has Malcolm gone wrong i.e. has he done anything that has made you unhappy?
In answering this people had two themes that came up again and again, Utegate and Climate Change.
Malcolm’s over reaching with Utegate was cited by voters of all persuasions as an example of leadership inexperience, as was dissatisfaction with his party’s inability to form a coherent position on climate change.
The Liberal Party focus groups must be bringing these issues fundamental issues of political ethos or credibility, but it’s not until you ask people to describe Malcolm that you understand why they keep these reports under strict lock and key.
“Arrogant” was used by dozens of people, closely followed by “full of himself”, “self opinionated” and “cocky”. The other popular words included “rich”, “wealthy” and “affluent” but rarely was any of this meant as a compliment.
Now for a politician seeking to reconnect with the “Howard Battlers” these are not words that would suggest a strong or positive connection with the electorate.
Public sentiment is a bit like wet concrete in that it’s fluid and mouldable but eventually it sets hard, and after that there nothing much to do but tear things up and start again.
It must surely have been this sort of thinking that led as yet unnamed senior Liberals to “approach” Joe Hockey about the leadership.
Certainly Gwen agrees, because when she questioned on what she thought of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership asked “isn’t he the one leaving?”
Perhaps she’s right but on the plus side if Malcolm Turnbull loses the Liberal leadership he’ll be entitled to use Maxwell Smart’s famous saying “missed it by that much.”
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…