There’s a new phrase doing the rounds in the corridors of pro-Turnbull supporters. When you say it you have to drip sarcasm and derision as the syllables leave your lips. Let’s try it together shall we? Nice and slowly, with feeling. ‘Del-Con’. ‘Del-Con’. ‘Del-Con’.
That’s meant to be short for ‘delusional conservative’, and it is used to refer to any long-time Liberal supporter who dislikes Malcolm Turnbull and the party’s lurch to the left under his leadership. It applies to you if you’re a small government, strong border security, pro-free speech kinda guy or gal who found Mr Abbott something of a disappointment but the man who knifed him to be a complete disaster. More specifically, it applies to you if you think Tony could have won the next election. (And by the way, the betting markets at the time of the coup, bad polls notwithstanding, still said Tony would win the general election, and would clean up in the WA by-election. Having actual conservative beliefs is apparently a help come the real voting.)
But first, isn’t the allusion clever? When you hear ‘del-con’ you’re immediately supposed to think ‘neo-con’. Now fewer than one in a thousand could tell you what a neo-con is but almost all of us know that ‘neo-con’ is shorthand for ‘bad, nasty, wrong-headed, war-mongering, idiotic, pathetic, out-of-touch’ and so on.
Likewise, any recalcitrant Lib voters who haven’t gotten with the Turnbull program are now smeared as ‘del-cons’. So what if Malcolm is even worse than Tony on free speech? Or worse on spending? Or played lovey-dovey with Gillian Triggs while shutting down Bjorn Lomborg and throwing money at ‘innovation’ (a joke) or ‘clean energy’ (ditto)? Or is desperate to find a way to tax you more while giving more to our mendicant, spendthrift States? Or has multi-culti Ministers who think we just don’t understand Islam, not like they do? You see, you’ve simply got to support Team Turnbull. Not to do so – wait for it – apparently means you must believe that Tony walked on water (he patently didn’t) or that he’ll make a return as PM someday (few think that).
As a bit of icing on top of the cake for those who throw around this label with more gay abandon than critics of the same-sex marriage plebiscite, the disparaging ‘del-con’ insult is also meant to summon up the image of a grumpy old white male, who for some inexplicable reason isn’t convinced that with Malcolm running the show, now is the best time ever to be alive in Australia. So should it happen that Niki, Peter Reith, PVO, Miranda Devine (alas) and myriad others accuse you of being a ‘del-con’ you’ll now have some idea of what they mean. To them you’re a disgruntled, embittered old whitey with a Y chromosome who unaccountably longs for a bit of free speech, some spending restraint and (mirabile dictu) thinks that Tony Abbott was, warts and all, a far better PM than Malcolm and could have won the next election, as he did the 2013 one. And that he could have delivered that win even with the leaking, white-anting and cowardice of a big chunk of his MPs. As I said, at the time of the coup the betting markets still had Tony favourite against Electricity Bill.
But for the Tony-Haters in the media it’s a mystery why you wouldn’t ‘support the new team’ just because it’s moved left. They are astonished that just because Malcolm leaked and white-anted and undermined that you would therefore baulk when loyalty was demanded now, under the new management. They simply can’t believe that any right-of-centre voter would actually think (what I confess is my view) that with Malcolm in charge it’s actually in Australia’s long-term interest to see the Coalition lose this next election, for the long-term good of party and country. So they opt for the cheap ad hominem insult and call you a ‘del-con’. Now personally, having been married for over 30 years, I’m pretty laid back about being called anything. And I confess that since Malcolm’s taken over I’ve been anything but ‘gruntled’. So I’m happy to join the paid-up ranks of the ‘del-con’ club. Where do I get a life membership, I ask.
Still, I’m not sure there’s really any ‘delusion’ in ‘Del-Con’. Remember, a ‘delusion’ is a ‘false impression’. So the implicit charge behind the ‘del-con’ label has to be that conservatives who oppose Turnbull are under some sort of false impression or other. And what is that false impression? Is it that Malcolm is not really the most left-leaning Liberal PM ever, that any notion to the contrary is, well, false? Hmm. Take a look at the list above, throw in the certainty Turnbull would never have stopped the boats, nor repealed the Carbon Tax, and add a soupçon of wonder about what he’d do were he to win the next election and you know there’s no false impression on that score.
Okay, maybe what is supposedly false is the impression that there ought to be costs imposed on political parties that knife victorious first term leaders rather than standing behind them and leaving it to the voters, or that Ministers who undermine and leak ought not to be rewarded by being voted into the top job by 54 pusillanimous MPs. Again, though, there’s nothing obviously false about either of those. Defenestrations carry costs, big costs, and all the Brutuses making their way to the Senate should know that, and if they didn’t, well, with any luck they soon will. Having a tantrum and screaming ‘del-con’doesn’t magically make things better when you commit regicide. Heck, the UK Tory Party is still feeling the after-effects of stabbing Maggie Thatcher in the back over 25 years ago. Tearing the Liberal Party support network asunder was an obvious future consequence of the Bishop, Brandis, Sinodinos et al plottings.
Here’s a third possibility. Maybe what’s supposedly false is the sense we anti-Turnbullites have that Malcolm has no clue why he’s in office and that he’s just a giant flip-flopper? So, does that ring false to you, after the 50 per cent GST hike flip flop, the State income tax U-turn, the musings about our superannuation and negative gearing, the ‘leaving everything on the table’ talk and more? Nope, didn’t think so. Turnbull puts the Croc into flip-flop (though the luvvies in the media cut him a million times more slack than they ever did Tony.)
Okay, last try. Maybe what the Turnbull cheerleaders really think is the ‘delusion’ is the belief that the Coalition may in fact need the votes of all of us ‘del-cons’ come July (or August, or October). This is the Textor school of thought. Disgruntled conservatives are an irrelevance, goes this thinking. Personally, I disagree. But time will tell. Meantime, my fellow del-cons, come the next election and you have nothing to lose but your chains tying you to our current Prime Minister.