It is now crystal clear what Alexander Downer’s vision is for South Australia. Total uncertainty.

Footsies have long been a problem for the former Foreign Minister

The former Foreign Minister must end his hair-twirling antics and declare categorically whether he intends to lead the South Australian Liberal Party. As things stand, the continuing game of footsies he is playing with the public and his party is starting to look like an exercise in vanity and self-indulgence.

The irony with all this is that Alexander Downer is the consummate party man and a deeply passionate South Australian. Yet his actions are damaging his party and not helping the state.

There is a parallel to all this. It is one with which Alexander Downer would probably not be too comfortable. As a senior member of the Howard Government and a highly trusted confidante of John Howard, Downer helped the former PM build a fortress around his leadership to resist all attempts by Peter Costello to position himself for the job. Downer only reluctantly suspended his support for Howard on the eve of the 2007 election, by which time it was too late for him to go anyway and too late for Peter Costello to have countered the then-surging Kevin Rudd.

Downer shared the widely held assessment of Peter Costello that he lacked the ticker to mount a proper challenge; worse, that it was illogical for Costello to claim that he would not challenge for fear of damaging the party, when the leadership speculation he was himself feeding was muddying Howard’s message and harming the Liberal brand.

This is also now the case with Alexander Downer. It is a strange set of circumstances as he is on paper the best candidate the Liberals have got, by a country mile. This party – this “sad tale”, as he apparently rightly called them – has become paralysed by juvenile factional squabbling, petty feuds and rivalries, and has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by failing to present a united front against governments which are there for the taking.

Downer would be a particularly lethal option for the Liberals because he would not only draw a line under two decades of childish squabbling, but he could energise a whole bunch of voters who would see him as a Kennett-like figure who would act like a turbo-charged advocate for our city and state.

Downer loves living here, he has great ideas about the city, about our challenges in terms of tourism, he is crazy about the arts, he thinks we under-promote the wine industry. He is also affable and entertaining. As a premier he would be a bit like our own Boris Johnson, the former editor of The Spectator who became the London Mayor. A lot of swinging voters and small-l liberal voters who have a natural tendency towards voting Labor would be prepared to come across to the Liberal side under Downer’s leadership.

Instead we have had a string of answers along the lines of: not at this time, perhaps, not really, well, not really right now.

Yesterday should have been the moment where he stated once and for all what is really going on, and he tip-toed around it again. It’s for this reason that Steven Marshall has been forced to suspend declaring his hand for another day, as the phone calls continue to see whether Downer is an option, or off the agenda.

The sad part about all this is that governments are at their best when they have really strong oppositions. This is a government which deserves to be put under maximum pressure. The opposition has been too busy starting at its own navel to place the government under any pressure at all. The state is basically bankrupt. Revenue is up the spout. Jay Weatherill has succeeded in convincing the voters that he is a terrific bloke, which he is, but we are yet to see his plan to get us out of the economic abyss, or see how his new Cabinet will work in practice. The opposition should be taking the fight up to him and in its current shambolic state is unable to do so, and Mr Downer’s “will he or won’t he” theatrics aren’t helping at all.

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25 comments

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    • Geronimo says:

      05:35am | 01/02/13

      Mummy and Daddy Downer’s little precious is more comfortable playing footsies on the Draft Dodgers Treadmill with gutless “Deferred Service” creatures like Howard.

    • Richard says:

      05:37am | 01/02/13

      Alexander Downer could be likened to Don Dunstan in some ways, a champion of the arts and local industry. He would unite the party in a way that Isobel Redmond couldn’t. South Australia deserves a good opposition until the next election . The worst it could do would be to push Jay Wetherill into making decisions about SA’s economic future. I was born in SA and lived through the Dunstan era when SA was a more vibrant and progressive state. I really Alexander Downer could do the same in his way for SA.

    • Pedro says:

      08:47am | 01/02/13

      SA politics - yawn. Could anything be more boring and less interesting to the 95% of Australians who reside away from the area where the desert meets the sea?
      And no - I couldn’t be bothered reading the boring article. Just thought I’d spew some bile about Downer - a man who never had a real job. He just took over Daddy’s safe LNP seat and now rakes in his taxpayer-funded gold-plated pension. Glad to see every other poster agrees with me regarding this pratt.
      Downer - another reason to avoid Paedelaide.

    • Brendon says:

      10:18am | 01/02/13

      I’m no fan of Alexander Downer, however, if him becoming leader of the SA Liberals becomes another reason for Paedro to stay away then I’m all for it.

    • Pedro says:

      12:17pm | 01/02/13

      @ Brendon.
      Paedro? Touche, sir, touche. Well parried, dear boy.
      What do I like about SA? Well there’s a giant schnitty at the Earl of Leicester in Unley and then there’s ... no that’s it.
      Giant schnitty to go please.

    • Grumpy says:

      03:07pm | 01/02/13

      Earl of Leicester, Schnitty - enough said

      Also Coopers, the Tour Down Under, proximity to the Barossa

    • Gregg says:

      05:42am | 01/02/13

      Adelaide must be a bit odd if they see Alexie as a cross between Killer Kennett and Boris Boofhead but then if he makes fishnet stockings the national or state dress, maybe he’ll have something going.

      We do not really have a national dress and fishnets with stubbles, thongs and blueys complete with a corker of a hat would give it all a more formal touch.
      There could even be the fish net festival, perhaps even a world championship or at least dancing with starry fishnets, all sorts of cool stuff to do between quaffing some good drops, probably even a Fishnet Wine!
      Adelaide will certainly be on the map again.

    • Lorraine says:

      03:42pm | 01/02/13

      Nice follow up to pink shorts I reckon.

    • acotrel says:

      05:53am | 01/02/13

      ‘The irony with all this is that Alexander Downer is the consummate party man and a deeply passionate South Australian. Yet his actions are damaging his party and not helping the state. ‘

      Keep up the good work Alexander.  You Libs always were delusional. The way you are going the voters might come to recognise the real value of the Liberal Party - something which should be flushed away out to sea.

    • difficult lemon says:

      06:27am | 01/02/13

      I thought Downer had made it pretty clear he was not interested particularly because his missus wouldn’t stand for it but the media didn’t want to take is no for an answer. Something which he reiterated yesterday.

    • Christopher P. says:

      10:04am | 01/02/13

      Nevertheless, Alex being Alex, he would be flattered beyond belief to have been considered/asked to step in and lead the Libs to victory next year. There resides an ego that know no bounds.
      Of course it would be a whole bucketload of actual work, and would severely cut into his contemplative cigar & cognac on the terrace time, so it’s a no-go!

    • Jay2 says:

      06:41am | 01/02/13

      I really don’t care for Downer, in fact he comes across somewhat of a pratt to me, but having said that if you put it into perspective what is occuring on a federal level it pales in comparison.
      I think playing ‘footsies’ is nowhere near as bad as playing ‘contempties’ on the like Gillard with what she did with Cross/Peris. Sledgehammer approach more like it.

    • Rosie says:

      06:48am | 01/02/13

      “Downer must stop playing footsies with the public” The media should stop pestering him because Downer keeps repeating the same answer,  “no plans to lead the SA Libs.”

    • Nathan says:

      07:37am | 01/02/13

      @Rosie
      Yes that is what he has told the public but you have senior Liberal sources saying he is considering it. So is his party lying or is he keeping his options open? His own party describes him as keen…....yes poor Downer the media has no right to ask who the next leader will be. Like it or not its news

    • Rosie says:

      02:37pm | 01/02/13

      Nathan

      One thing at a time! The media has achieved what they have wanted all along - Create news by making Redmond resign! If it was closer to Elections and if Downer felt he would win the 2014 Elections I am certain he would have taken on the job. I am surprised the media haven’t picked this up! Downer said that the SA Libs should get behind their leader and not expect a knight with shining armour to come along and save them.

      If they had only given all their support to Redmond right up until next year before the Election and have the change over then, Downer as their Premier would guarantee them a win.

      Ask yourself why should Downer give up what he has now to be Opposition Leader only to lose in next year’s Election?

    • Gordon says:

      07:00am | 01/02/13

      He has never answered questions regarding his knowledge about the AWB giving Saddam Hussein $300 million when our nation was at war with Iraq. Saying ‘I do not recall’ a few hundred times in a court of law is not the characteristics of a state Premier. The only reason a Royal Commission was not initiated was because he and Mark Vaille were retiring from politics.

    • Andrew says:

      10:47am | 01/02/13

      He was a spectacular failure as minister. This massive scandal happened under his watch whether he remembers it or not..

    • PeterMax says:

      08:56am | 01/02/13

      The media with its endless harassing of Isobel Redmond and Alexander Downer - who said he would not stand - over at least two months have been a significant factor in Ms. Redmond stepping down.  The endless media denigration of the Liberals and the constant covering up for, glorification and promotion of Labor have significantly damaged South Australia and Australia and strongly contributed to the decline of most media.

    • Cranky ol' Bugga says:

      09:31am | 01/02/13

      Downer could only be drafted to the presidency, or whatever, of the Liberal Party in SA; he cannot be a parliamentary player unless he is elected to a seat in the lower house. Maybe the plan is to parachute him into an upper house seat for the duration, if that’s the way it works in SA.
      How pathetic though that he is their top choice for leader; seems to be a shallow talent pool, much like the shallow SA gene pool.
      One might also question how effective he was in Cyprus in recent times. The Turkish and Greek sides are not bomb-throwing as far as I know, but they are certainly no closer to being good friends or united. Seems like that was a nice occasional holiday for Lord Downer, although having visited Cyprus I can think of hundreds of other places I would prefer to vacation.
      I suspect his preferred option is to sit back and meddle from the sidelines, something he has shown some flair for in the past.

    • Tropical says:

      10:09am | 01/02/13

      Heard of Steven Marshall David?
      You may as well put this little beat up to bed.

    • D.G. says:

      11:09am | 01/02/13

      Has anyone hear of him?

    • Harquebus says:

      11:02am | 01/02/13

      No South Australian politician is up to task. They all still believe that absurd myth, perpetual economic growth. We can not shop our way to sustainability and renewables are a waste of precious energy.
      We’re doomed.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      02:27pm | 01/02/13

      Alexander Downer should make up his mind.
      Alexander, stop sliding around and make up your mind. You claim tobe a Loyal, rusted-on Liberal yet you spend your time undermining your own State Liberals.
      Alexander, either you are going to stand or you’re not.
      In colloquial Australian English, Alexander:
      Make up your bloody mind.
      What you are doing is nothing more, nor less, than you being sheer bloody-minded.
      I know a person can’t help how they look. I know we don’t vote for the leader & are supposed to “Vote the Party, not the Person” However, remembering how Downer was as Federal leader of the Libs & seeing the Machiavellian photos of Steven Marshall in The Adelaide Advertiser today, though I would never vote for the ALP nor is there any way I could be persuaded to vote for the Liberals under either of these two.
      Another Informal Vote coming up!!

    • Grumpy says:

      03:03pm | 01/02/13

      According to the Herald Sun (i.e. your paper) he said “I have no plans to do it” and went on to say something like ‘I’m not a candidate. I’m not in the SA Parliament and I have no plans of joining the SA Parliament’

      I might be missing something (wouldn’t be surprising because I don’t care that much) but this pretty clear, doesn’t it? Surely the whole ‘will he or won’t he’ thing is no more than a beat up by reporters….

    • Tropical says:

      04:53pm | 01/02/13

      I asked David earliar today ‘heard of Steven Marshall?’
      Marshal will become the new leader od the SA Liberals.
      Seeing he is the Deputy Leader it always stood to reason he would be the next leader.
      Downer was never in the hunt.
      But never let a chance to slime the Liberals go by.
      You can all take your conservative sliming somewhere else where it will be appreciated. Fairfax and the ABC come to mind.

 

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