Tony Abbott and the problem of the PSDS

The PSDS is the Political Smarts Deficiency Syndrome.

It is observable when a politician exhibits a complete lack of political smarts. The evidence that Abbott suffers from the syndrome has been building, unfortunately most of the Australian public did recognise it early enough.

The first manifestation of this was after the 2010 election when he was unable to negotiate support from the independent members of lower house in particular, independent MPs Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. In the case of the last two, their natural constituency was probably more to the right of politics and to the left.

Abbott was completely outmaneuvered by Gillard who manage to maintain the support of independents throughout Labor’s term of government. It does not auger well for the Coalition that there will be forced to negotiate with a group of people in the Senate who will redefine herding cats.

The second manifestation of the Abbot’s PSDS was when he failed to heed the old mantra that ‘Opposition parties don’t win General elections, Governments lose them’. He mistook the fact that the Australian electorate was thoroughly sick of the Labor Party for a belief that it was in love with him, his party and its policies. That gave him a mistaken idea of the extent of the mandate that he had received in the last election.

This led to the third manifestation of the PSDS. His mistaken grasp of the nature of his mandate led him and Joe Hockey to present a budget that has served to mobilise all the latent discontent with and mistrust of, him and his party. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the budget, it has been a monumental political disaster.

It is hard to imagine a politician getting the politics of a budget so completely wrong.

Some commentary in the media suggests that the slide in opinion polls may be terminal.

The fourth manifestation of the PSDS is using Christopher Pyne to carry the debate about the budget. Does Abbott not realise that this man is probably the most reviled politician in Australia? Why hasn’t Malcolm Turnbull stepped up to the plate?

The fourth manifestation of the PSDS is in the developing scandal around the preferment of his two daughters. Regardless of the arguments about the merit of these two young women, for the PM to have one daughter receive a $60,000 scholarship from a mate and then to have another daughter receive a diplomatic appointment to Geneva to work with former Coalition staffer Peter Woolcott who is the ambassador there, is just plain dumb.

There will always be a perception that, regardless of the merit of the people concerned, that employment of family members with people or organisations who have links to the influential and powerful parents of the appointees, is nepotism of the worst order. Of all of the manifestations of Abbott’s PSDS it is the inability to negotiate his way into power after 2010 election is the most worrying. It is now becoming clear that Abbott is completely incapable of a nuanced political activity. He is only good at shouting and when that doesn’t work all he can do is shout louder and more insistently. This is probably not going to work with this bloke.