Unpopular governments, propped up by independents and minor parties, stumbling their way to inevitable election defeat; prime ministers unable to command full support even within their own parties; senior Ministers plotting and speculating.
But there the similarity ends. No one seems to have any idea how Australian Labor will rebuild itself in opposition after the September poll or even who will lead it. In Britain the next election is at least a year away, but already Conservative Party backbenchers and grandees alike are accepting the battle is lost, that David Cameron will be disposed of as party leader and a replacement will be found.
And that man is Boris Johnson, the current Lord Mayor of London.
Almost anywhere else in the world Johnson would be an improbable, even impossible choice. Dishevelled, hair all over the place, ‘bumbling’ is the most often used description of him. As an example, when asked point blank in a television interview whether he would like to be Prime Minister, his answer went along the lines of:
“Well…dash it…all things being equal, I’d really quite fancy it….it’s not going to happen of course, but… if the ball came loose from the back of the scrum…well, I’d have a crack at it.”
It’s really not what Johnson says, it’s the way he says it, endearing to the point where people are ready to forgive his regular gaffs and colourful private life. After one tryst was revealed during his time as editor of the right-wing magazine The Spectator, a tabloid headline blazed ‘Bonking Boris made me pregnant’.
But behind this shambling and occasionally outrageous exterior is a calculating, ambitious and above all highly popular, politician. He is about the only current leader in British politics who is universally known by his first name, and as an article in Foreign Policy magazine recently pointed out:
“Part vaudeville-shaman, part P.G. Wodehouse character, the Mayor of London is the antithesis of the identikit, on-message politician.”
The fact he is not even a Member of Parliament appears to be no obstacle. A veteran Conservative MP in a safe seat has already said he would be happy to vacate to give Johnson a free ride into Westminster, while another has already described him as an “excellent leader of the opposition and perhaps a credible prime minister.”
So what are the odds? The Conservatives – once the party of privilege and the landed gentry, should probably have faded into oblivion a century ago, and has been written off more than once since. But it has survived because there were always people within the ranks who could judge and adjust to the political winds.
The trimming to a new course is in progress again. Coalition with the Liberal Democrats gave the Conservatives a taste of power after 14 years in the wilderness, but now it is clearly time to move on and it is the Lib Dems who will suffer the greatest damage at the next poll.
A good dose of Bonking Boris may be just the antidote dispirited Tories need as they face up to another dose of Labour under Ed Miliband.