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Conservative contrasts and contradictions: Can these opposites attract LNP voters


They could scarcely be more different, but these two former leaders might collectively be just what the conservative side of politics needs, writes Madonna King

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If Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles was writing this script, he’d almost definitely call it a contrast, or even a contradiction.

A former LNP premier, whose unpopularity broke records, is given a top position in helping forge the future of the party he reduced to a rump.

And another former LNP leader, who never quite got to be called premier despite repetitive strain injury trying, becomes the front-runner to show the party how to end a near-generation of Labor rule.

But perhaps there’s more method in this madness than the apparent contrast – my favourite word of the week – might suggest.

Former premier Campbell Newman is fairly unlikeable. At least he was. As premier, he talked more than he listened. Too often thought he was the brightest in the room. And he seemed to prize his own advice over those trained, over decades, to provide independent counsel.

That meant he lost support very quickly after an even quicker elevation into the premiership, from outside Parliament. He lost voters. He lost donors. He lost business. He attacked the media. He put lawyers and public servants and health workers offside.

Actually, by the time he lost an election most people didn’t think possible, he’d put most people he needed off-side.

His new job, announced last week, as one of the party’s trustees – or elder statesmen – might not have been received too well by some in the party, but his role is this post is not to lead the charge to win votes.

That should be led by the party’s leader David Crisafulli, and it’s a clever strategy to have those nipping at the party’s ankles inside the tent, not outside.

Newman’s job should be to help the party learn from his own mistakes, rebuild its business base, and make sure its coffers are ready for an election battle.

Everyone deserves a second chance, and that includes the only conservative state leader to win an election since Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

The expected elevation of Lawrence Springborg is also not the contradiction – sorry, but I just had to use it again – it might seem.

Springborg, despite the long time he spent in Parliament having been elected when he was only 21, should be seen as ushering in a new type of politician.

Unlike Newman, Springborg listens more than he talks. He is respectful, and liked by those on both sides of the Parliament. He understands the city, but comes from the bush. He is the mayor of a local council (Goondiwindi Regional Council) but his experience is State-based. And he led the creation of the LNP.

In his public life, he’s experienced loss – having led the party to three separate elections but never taking home the trophy. But in his private life, he’s also suffered real loss.

In the current national debate over the type of person politics needs, Lawrence Springborg is a politician for the time.

So it is no contradiction that the party leader, who tried, and failed, to win the top job so many times now looks set to take the reins of the LNP presidency.

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