PhillipsonhowardJohn Howard has suffered from a few TB-GB-style difficulties recently.  The Australian PM’s finance minister Peter Costello went public with a suggestion that Mr Howard had agreed to step down in his favour and had failed to do so.  It produced a mini political crisis and has been brought to a conclusion in recent days by John Howard’s announcement that he will be fighting a fifth General Election.

Writing for today’s Daily Mail, Melanie Phillips is very impressed with John Howard’s premiership and believes that he could teach David Cameron a thing or two:

"While Britain’s Tory leader pursues his daring attempt to regain power… by junking vast swathes of Conservative baggage, John Howard has emerged as the most successful conservative politician of modern times.  And he has done so by embodying the very opposite of the image-obsessed, soundbite-laden gimmickry that now drives British politics."

Melanie Phillips highlights the following:

  • "He is a staunch ally of US foreign policy and has taken uncompromising stands on anti-terrorism laws and Muslim integration."
  • "His government introduced eye-wateringly tough immigration laws."
  • He wants to see pupils salute the Australian flag at morning assembly.
  • "He has cut taxes, restructured labour markets and presided over the longest economic boom in the country’s history."

Tax cuts remain a central ingredient of all of the Anglosphere’s successful conservative parties – but not in Britain.  Oliver Letwin used Monday evening to tell a Policy Exchange gathering that he wanted to exorcise the myth that tax cuts were intrinsic to Conservatism.  Instead he suggested the party should concentrate on beauty.  I mean no disrespect to Mr Letwin when I say that all voters could probably manage without a tax cut if they enjoyed a directorship at NM Rothschild.

For Janet Albrechtsen, in The Australian, the not-so-ordinary John Howard’s ‘big idea’ is individual choice:

"If Howard’s apparent ordinariness is the core of his success, the truth is he is nothing of the sort. No one wins four elections by being ordinary. Unlike the Bruckner lovers, Howard articulates the concerns and aspirations of Australians by pursuing a shrewd mix of political philosophy and pragmatism. Policies are mostly founded on the simple message of individual choice. And while the anti-Howard forces may be embarrassed by Australia’s economic success during the past decade, most people realise that choice is real only if the economy is performing.  Howard is not embarrassed about funding private schools to support parents who make that choice. Or offering middle-class welfare: childcare rebates to support mothers who wish to work and family tax benefits for those who want to stay at home. Individual choice also explains Howard’s extensive industrial relations reforms, where individual workplace agreements are nutted out between employees and employers."

Related link: John Howard’s ten years in charge.

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