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Pedaling to the Lodge

April 10, 2010

Christopher Pearson in The Weekend Australia suggests that “yes he [Tony Abbott] can pedal to the lodge” and that “motivated forecasts of an inevitable Coalition defeat in the next federal election are misleading”.

What is interesting about this piece is Pearson’s change in attitude towards Tony’s Pollie Pedal but more generally about his take on Tony’s political instincts and chances at the next election. It’s not often you see a journo admitting they got it wrong!

The press gallery and the editorial writers in the main metropolitan papers, almost without exception, have been demanding that Abbott stay at his desk rather than taking to his bike.

It’s as though the couch potato in us all was threatened by his athleticism.

For my sins, I’ve been one of the loudest in denouncing the cycling marathon as self-indulgent excess, telling him to act his age and teasing him that we’ve already seen far too much footage of him in pastel Lycra.

I’ve grudgingly come to the conclusion that I was wrong on two counts.

First, because we expect our leaders to be true to themselves and can spot it a mile off when they’re not. Yet there I was urging him to act out of character, to ingratiate himself with the leader writers, of all people.

Second, because if he’d caved in it would have become a Gotcha! moment, comparable with John Howard’s giving in to Mark Latham’s demand to change parliamentary superannuation entitlements against his better judgment.

He’d have acquired a reputation overnight as a pushover, easily intimidated into doing whatever his noisiest critics wanted.

The latest Essential Research polling suggests Abbott’s political instincts in this matter are sound. Asked whether he was spending too much time on non-work activities, 32 per cent of respondents agreed, 45 per cent disagreed and 23 per cent said they didn’t know.

Plainly, in a genteel rendering of US president Lyndon Johnston’s aphorism, most Australians understand that it’s possible to walk and to chew gum at the same time, and they’re not hostile to fitness fanatics.

It is, however, Arthur Sinodinos’ comments that he is NOT ruling out standing for preselection in Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth that Pearson thinks is telling:

It is a big implied vote of confidence in Abbott and his prospects of forming the next government from a very astute observer. It’s also a wake-up call to the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey.

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