This move in Australian politics has obvious echoes for the situation the Liberal Democrats find ourselves in here in the UK:
Cory Bernardi establishes rightwing movement Australian Conservatives
Cory Bernardi insists he is not leaving the [right-wing] Liberal party but says he is intent on establishing a grassroots nationwide movement to unite disaffected conservative voters.
Bernardi told Guardian Australia on Wednesday he was not defecting but was focused on building an organisational movement, Australian Conservatives, in parallel with his parliamentary activity.
“My intention is to make the Liberal party stronger,” he said.
The dilemma for the Liberal Democrats in looking to build a broader liberal movement is that successes for liberalism often do not beget successes for Liberal Democrats. Indeed, they can run counter to it.Take same-sex marriage – a major Liberal Democrat achievement but success comes from changing wider social norms which then in turn means there’s nothing particularly distinctive about the Lib Dem support for the measure.
The very success in making society more liberal then removes the issue as a reason to support the Lib Dems.
That’s not to say that such wider liberal movements do not have a value. They certainly do in helping to achieve Lib Dem policy aims, and in giving Lib Dem supporters the motivation that comes with such successes. It’s just that they are of limited use in generating electoral success unless such movements are based around a political party, using the movement to broaden its reach and impact but with the success of the party at its heart.