I mean attractive to certain elements of the center and the center left of course. Seemingly immune to his charms, Van Badham in a great article reminds us all to not be fooled by Mr Suave. However, her argument hinges primarily on policy and there’s plenty of that to wave around given that none of them are at all attractive. And there are portions of the Opposition who like to remind the starry-eyed types in their ranks of that too.
I don’t believe that policy arguments is going to win away much of Turnbull’s popularity however. He is our equivalent of America’s Donald Trump and unfortunately, in the reverse-mirror-down-under world of Australia, our silver haired Trump has won.
Trump is a master of affinity politics, so much so that Americans prefer the same policy more if it’s indicated that it was Trump’s policy as opposed to Obama’s. The article in HuffPo is here (although mind it’s a yougov poll so science is debatable). Turnbull and now the Coalition has clearly learned the same lesson.
You need to have a PM who people feel some affinity with. The policies, so long as they do not immediately clash with deeply held cultural values, are almost secondary. Mind you, the Coalition was very good at being bad at both affinity and at policy: Hockey smoking a cigar to an unfair budget, Abbott’s captain call of knighting Prince Phillip etc etc.
Turnbull, however, is someone that the soft-left aspirational class can feel affinity towards. He is confident, successful, intelligent, wealthy, articulate and projects a degree of humour and geniality. In short, he is almost the archetype of a good-sort old-school professional: a doctor, lawyer or banker. He is probably genial enough that he shouldn’t arouse as much antipathy from the soft-left (or soft-right) working-class either. He may even be able to pull off the fatherly rich-uncle gimmick on traditional battler types.
Labor is waking up to this of course – they’ve started to point out his $50 million mansion (or whatever), his %1 banker background and the general smugness that coats his skin with an unwashable oily sheen. Their tactics are right: you have to fight affinity with affinity. And until they do it successfully, Turnbull may well keep charming away the centre from Labor.