If you’re Australian and you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ll know PM Tony Abbott narrowly survived a leadership spill motion in the Liberal party room last week. Most commentators agree we haven’t heard the end of this. The apparent leading candidate is Malcolm Turnbull. It’s also possible Abbott could be challenged by Julie Bishop or Scott Morrison, but here I have chosen to focus on Turnbull because of the particular way that he is perceived by the electorate.
Malcolm Turnbull may be the most popular politician in Australia. Almost everybody I speak to seems to adore him. Whenever his name crops up in political news and commentary, he’s usually presented in a positive light. Most importantly, he is perceived as a rare green Liberal. He is now much more popular than when he previously led the Liberal Party in 2009, probably because the circumstances in which he lost the leadership made him look like a sort of green martyr. So when I tell people I am distrustful of him, they are astounded. Surely Turnbull would be far preferable to Abbott?
To begin with, I reject any notion that Turnbull’s “charisma” or suchlike makes him PM material. We cannot rely on instinct to discern which politicians are more trustworthy. It’s a politician’s job to appear as if their speech and body language is natural and sincere, and to manipulate our instincts to create such an impression. A politician who intuitively seems more natural may in reality be more fake.