Monday, 11 March 2013

Liberals are pushing Sensitive Tony again

Abbott: Still a bit of a boofy bloke.
In the wake of the huge Labor defeat in Queensland a year ago and the swing to the incumbent Barnett Liberal government in Western Australia last week, internal Liberal polling is obviously showing that Tony Abbott still has a problem with women. Cue an appearance last night on current affairs program 60 Minutes, which one acquaintance on Twitter no doubt accurately labelled a "puff piece" (I don't ever watch commercial free-to-air television), and a very strange story in the Age today in which the Opposition leader says "Yes I can" when asked if he could guarantee he would not invoke his Catholic faith in policymaking. The piece also spruikes Abbott's gay cred by rolling out his sister, Christine Forster, who is in a lesbian relationship.

But can women really believe that Abbott's earlier statements against abortion were merely "poorly stated"? Has his opposition to homosexuals really changed since "he had got to know gays"?
Supported by his lesbian sister, her lover, his wife Margie and his daughters, Mr Abbott said that when he claimed three years ago during a television interview that he felt ''a bit threatened'' by homosexuals, he had been trying to guard a family secret. 
He had only just been told by his sister that she was a lesbian. 
''Now I couldn't talk about that then because it was deeply personal and deeply private,'' he said. 
''But certainly, they were very tough times for our family, hence my comment, because the cohesion of our family was threatened at that time. But I'm pleased to say that we're all in a better space now than we were then.'
Tough times? Why? If you really have no problem with homosexuality then there should be few or no qualms to negotiate if a family member comes out as gay. I get the feeling that Sensitive Tony is but a veneer covering a bit of a boofy bloke who is, in actual fact, deeply uncomfortable with truly liberal positions on such social issues as reproductive rights, homosexuality, and gender equality.

It's interesting that Abbott has chosen this point in time to show his soft side. It makes you think back to October when his wife, Margie, had to come out in his defense publicly following from Julia Gillard's attack on her husband in Parliament over "misogyny". Those internal Liberal polls must be pretty bad.

Abbott's concern about Australian women's perceptions of him are well-founded. In the UK, the conservative Cameron government is flagging severely among that part of the electorate in polls.
Labour's lead over the Conservatives among women has now hit 26% (51% to 25%), according to the most recent ICM/Guardian poll, compared with a 7% lead among men. No wonder Tory strategists are panicking. 
The Guardian story points out that it's partly an economic issue, with more women in the workforce than, say, twenty years ago, but also because women have been hit hardest by Cameron's austerity measures due to the types of work that they do. But it's more than that.
[O]ver the past generation there has been a sea change. Women have moved to the left almost across the board and have now leap-frogged over men. The differences might seem relatively small (though on issues of war and peace they're usually around 20%); women tend to identify less with political parties; and the shift is offset by the fact that women live longer, and older people tend to be more conservative.
The direction of travel is, however, unmistakable – and it's far from restricted to Britain. The trend for women to shift leftwards has been clear longest in the United States, where a higher proportion of women than men have voted Democrat in presidential elections since 1980, and where Barack Obama was re-elected with 55% of the overall women's vote.
The same pattern was already evident across most advanced industrial economies a decade ago. As the academics Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart found, while men's politics had remained pretty stable, women's had moved left from the 1990s onwards – and they were also far less likely to vote for parties of the far right.
So expect to see more soft-serve puffery from the OL in coming months as he scales up his efforts to win in September. Abbott is taking no chances. He's a son of Howard, and will not "take the electorate for granted".

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