Thursday, April 14, 2016

Battleground: Why the Liberal Party Shirtfronted Tony Abbott, by Wayne Errington and Peter Van Onselen

Staff review by Chris Saliba

Mature analysis of Tony Abbott's downfall from academics Wayne Errington and Peter Van Onselen.

Academics Wayne Errington and Peter Van Onselen are best known for their seminal biography, John Winston Howard. In Battleground: Why the Liberal Party Shirtfronted Tony Abbott, the two authors come together again to look at what went wrong with the Abbott prime ministership. Tony Abbott won the 2013 election promising government by grown ups. Barely two years later his own party had removed him, repeating Labor’s cardinal sin of removing a sitting prime minister.

Many books of this nature simply provide a narrative gleaned from newspaper clippings, with the odd bit of commentary thrown in. What makes Battleground a standout is the extensive interviews that have been conducted with the main players and their staffers, offering many fascinating insights. Much that was rumoured to be happening behind the scenes, particularly chief of staff Peta Credlin’s iron grip, is corroborated. The book is also a cut above for its intelligent analysis and knowledge of government.

Why did Abbott fail so devastatingly? Primarily it was an inability to listen, to be flexible, to accept responsibility for mistakes. His denial of reality made him almost a magic thinker. When Abbott stretched the truth he was not only dishonest with the public, but also himself.

Battleground: Why the Liberal Party Shirtfronted Tony Abbott, by Wayne Errington and Peter Van Onselen. Published by Melbourne University Press. ISBN: 9780522869712  RRP: $29.99 

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