ScoMo — the campaign hero — revived a battered party
With the come-from-behind victory, Scott Morrison has entered the Liberal pantheon.
By winning the unwinnable election, he has given the government a remarkable new lease of life and can be assured of leading the Liberal Party for as long as he wants to.
He now has vast authority to put his own personal stamp on the government - and he will be unconstrained in doing so because his mandate is simply, not to be Labor.
Any way you cut it, Scott Morrison ran an outstanding campaign.
Despite the deadweight of Malcolm Turnbull's 14-seat drubbing at the last federal election impacting the ask, as well as Turnbull Junior's treachery with his grubby mates at GetUp!, this time the Liberals made Labor's unlosable election a fight right down to the wire.
For all those who like to forecast the Liberal-National parties' demise, this election showed that when lead by a truly Liberal leader, despite bruising leadership changes, the centre-right in this country enjoys wide support among everyday Australians.
Indeed, if this election was about primary vote alone, who we choose first rather than our second or third picks, it would be the Coalition with a swag of seats and Bill Shorten consigned to history.
But as we know, it's not like that.
Considering how well Morrison took the fight up to Labor and, unlike his predecessor, actually exposed the risks of Labor's policy agenda, you've got to wonder why his colleagues kept Turnbull as long as they did?
Sure, this wasn't a campaign where either side set the world on fire. Morrison took the strategic decision that voters wanted predictable and orthodox after almost 12 years of revolving door leadership and "Canberra bubble" politics, and Shorten - off the Richter scale in terms of unpopularly - was canny in the use of his colleagues to deal with the questions on detail (and he got away with it) as well as to amplify Labor's unity.
This time around, there was no empty slogan like "Jobs and Growth".
Nor did the PM campaign like a dilettante, or rail against his own side (or the voter) in a thankless speech last night.
Because Labor's radical agenda was the real contest, the Liberals offered a "steady as she goes" election platform.
Many of the hard, structural decisions headed the Coalition's way were deliberately put aside in this campaign to keep the focus on Labor, but they will resurface now.
Some Liberals might think they can remain "progressive" in some areas and "conservative" in others. The truth is they can't be both progressive and conservative on all policies at the same time.
In dealing with the vital issues that didn't really feature in this campaign - how do we introduce enough baseload power into our electricity grid to keep the lights on; how do we make the structural changes needed to keep our economy competitive; how do we protect religious freedom and free speech in this country; and how do we rise to the security challenges in a world that America can no longer be relied upon to police - the Liberals will need firm policy based on clear values even if they remain a sometimes contradictory amalgam of the "small-l" liberal and "small-c" conservative political traditions.
In badging themselves as "modern Liberals" rather than as just Liberal, some MPs were hoping to send a message to their electorates that they supported more action on climate change, a softer stand on border protection, and heavy spending on health and education.
But what does that even mean? Where's the line between so-called "modern Liberal" and Labor-lite - because, as we saw in 2016, when you don't stand for anything, your supporters walk away.
Sadly, much of what has distinguished political debate in this country in recent years has been big-spending commitments on both sides, and less about the values difference between the two major parties.
Rather than just outbid each other, the Liberal Party must be better prepared to contest the fiscal arms race and instead ask, what does the spending achieve?
What's the outcome we're getting, and does it stack up?
Under Bob Menzies, Malcolm Fraser, John Howard and Tony Abbott, the Liberals succeeded in getting out of opposition not by weak compromises with a bad government but by holding fast to Liberal principles.
Where policy can be supported it should be, but not if it means trading out what the Liberals stand for to win favour with the shrill demands of a vocal few over the quiet steadfastness of the silent majority.
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