| Editor | The Monthly
MELBOURNE - On Friday, prime minister Scott Morrison came as close as he’ll ever come to conceding that most people don’t like him.
He also said that “there are things that are going to have to change with the way I do things”.
A man known for his arrogant self-assurance, for never admitting wrongs during a lifetime of brutal politicking, was suddenly promising, eight days before an election, to change.
As journalist Samantha Maiden immediately noted, it sounded like he’d reached the bargaining stage of grief.
The internal polling must be terrible.
But was it convincing? And what would he change?
“I know Australians know that I can be a bit of a bulldozer,” Morrison said. “But, you know, over the last few years that’s been pretty important…”
Many, many other women remarked on social media how much it resembled a desperate man trying to stop his partner from leaving. And not in a loving way.
You may not like me, he was saying (repeating a theme from earlier in the campaign), or what I did, or how I did it, but it was for your own good. And you need me to protect you.
But I’ll change, I promise.
Others will see these comments as Morrison turning over a new leaf with a genuine acknowledgement of personal fault, but that would be terribly naive.
In fact, Morrison’s comments were entirely consistent with his character.
What he said was purely rhetorical; it wasn’t accompanied by any actions that might prove his new intentions.
He did it because he needed to, and only for political purposes. (Would he have made such statements if he was ahead in the polls? No.)
Note too that his admission was qualified by various excuses (the times called for it: Covid-19, natural disasters etc), and also that the whole sequence was an exercise in reframing his past behaviour: maybe I was too strong a leader.
And maybe it’s too late for him to change.