Magazine article The Spectator

The Facts Down Under

Magazine article The Spectator

The Facts Down Under

Article excerpt

From Richard Alston Sir: It is unfortunate that in his desperation to denigrate Tony Blair, Matthew Norman regurgitated oft-repeated mythology about the Australian 2001 election ('Blair thinks he is the Wizard of Oz', 1 April). His central proposition is that by turning away a boatload of asylum-seekers on 27 August 2001, Prime Minister John Howard was able to win a November election which 'he had been certain to lose'. This is completely contrary to the facts.

The government had certainly had an abysmal first half-year, culminating in the loss of a previously safe Liberal seat, but following the May Budget and a popular first-time homebuyers' scheme, the government commenced to claw back its poll deficit and by mid-July it had managed to retain the seat of Aston in another by-election, which was universally regarded as a very significant political achievement.

By August, Newspoll, the most reliable indicator, had the government in front while other opinion polls had the parties neck and neck. …

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