Last week, the conservative love affair of the century ended. The ultimately futile attractions of the LNP to Clive's millions and Clive to the benefits of an LNP Government has failed. Clive has dumped the LNP; the LNP has counter-dumped Clive. There's no happy ending in sight.
Surprisingly, it is crazy Clive F Palmer, with his soccer addiction, his Titanic replica, his Jurassic Park-themed golf resort (formerly the Hyatt Regency Coolum), and another mega-resort and international airport planned for the Sunshine Coast who has the most support. Politically, Clive has (or had) that pesky life membership of the LNP, plus his seven-digit donation to the party, a conspiracy theory linking the CIA to the Greens, threats to run for federal parliament against Wayne Swan, a stoush with Tony Abbott and a rare talent for media conferences that would make him political dynamite.
So what is Clive Palmer up to? He is speaking out against the reign of King Campbell, in a manner that most voters to the left of Genghis Khan will appreciate. King Campbell's popularity within Newmania has dropped from a high in the 60s, before he started his Campbell Scissorhands routine, to somewhere in the 40s in around six months. Wonks are claiming that this is the fastest fall in post-election leadership approval and popularity ever seen in Australia.
Voters have been protesting against King Campbell's Slash & Burn tactics for months now; Opposition Leader Annastacia Palasczcuk has tried to lead an effective opposition and has been entirely ineffectual; the media, including the Murdochian Courier Mail has has been appropriately critical, too. Nothing has broken through the way Clive's criticism has.
Clive Palmer has a decades-long relationship with the LNP and it's predecessor. Even without his business successes, he's impossible to ignore, particularly when he compares King Campbell's first eight months with the Bjelke Petersen government, and claims the Newman regime is worse. Clive believes in the goodness of conservative politics, and largely bankrolled the amalgamation of the Queensland Liberals and Nationals, creating the party he just dumped. The LNP is, in part, his creation, and through that, he enabled Labor's defeat.
Clive Palmer carries a lot of conservative political clout - dare I suggest he has even more clout without he LNP? Imagine a Clive who wasn't wedded to LNP mantras; a Clive who could apply his business expertise to running the state while still being true to his values. This is the man who donated substantial funds to the Queensland Labor movement to assist public servants who'd been sacked. He doesn't hesitate to put his money where his mouth is.
When Clive parted ways with the LNP after that unforgettable media conference where he referred to King Campbell as Caesar, he asked us to expect something big. Someone should probably tell Clive that when he calls a presser, "big" is usually an understatement.
Clive also likes the visual, and for that media conference he stood in front of a yellow and black backdrop covered in the words "Together we achieve the extraordinary". I wondered if that was significant. It's a slogan adopted by organisations ranging from fitness clubs to the Jefferson Baptist Church to various construction companies, metalwork businesses, corporate consultants and...Clive Palmer himself, who had the words included on the billboard he erected in Wayne Swan's suburban Brisbane seat of Lilley. There was no party branding, just the slogan and Clive's name and easily recognisable face.
The LNP must be curious and more. They have weathered the Flegg resignation, but still have to deal with Michael Caltabiano and Ros Bates. Ray Hopper's defection to Katter's Australia Party might not have shaken a government with a majority the size of Jupiter, but today, the last sitting week of the year, Gold Coast LNP member Alex Douglas is stirring the party pot over his removal from the Ethics Committee, and Carl Judge, yet another LNP member, will in all likelihood be disendorsed by the party. Bob Katter thinks there are more LNP members ready to jump ship, but which way?
The million dollar question: What about a Clive Party?
Would Clive Party throw his money behind another political venture? If he did, would he run for office as it's leader? Would other, disgruntled LNP MPs dump the LNP to play in Clive's sandpit? If they did, where does that leave Katter's Party? Could Clive summon seven or more LNP members to 'be extraordinary' with him, allowing his party to replace the ALP as the party in Opposition?
With Clive, anything is possible. He loves being the ringmaster, revealing his latest and greatest thought-bubbles to the world. When a man like that ends a press conference with a promise of something bigger, he could well be gearing up to announce the formation of his own political party, or a plan to challenge King Campbell head-on in Ashgrove, or release some hitherto unknown documentation implicating half the LNP in dirty deeds, or a plan to save Queensland by building replica Titanics and cloning dinosaurs...or he could be announcing that he's had enough enough of the whole shebang and he's going to colonise the moon.
It's Clive, after all. Nothing is too far out there.