“Just because preferences are directed to a party doesn’t mean that you support them, quite the contrary,” said Malcolm Turnbull in February, displaying all of a barrister’s skill in portraying white as black if it suits his case.
The occasion was a weak attempt to distance himself from the odour of the Liberal Party preferencing One Nation ahead of the Nationals, let alone Labor, in the WA state election.
Now, with Liberal Party preferencing One Nation ahead of Labor in the federal seat of Longman, there is no distancing. Mr Turnbull is up to his eyeballs in orange hair dye.
In Longman, the Liberals have told their supporters to put One Nation at No.7 and Labor at No.9, with One Nation returning the favour by putting the Liberals No.7 and Labor No.10.
This means “One Hanson” is now to the Liberal Party what the Greens are to Labor – fellow travellers walking arm-in-arm along a generally common road.
Or perhaps more accurately, One Hanson is the new Democratic Labor Party – Vince Gair’s DLP that delivered preferences to the Coalition for decades.
There’s no surprise. Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann was one of the architects of the WA state deal.
When what was left of the liberal Liberal Party was voicing disquiet, Senator Cormann was happy to defend the relationship – one that has continued to strengthen as he duchesses Ms Hanson through her Senate flip-flopping.
“If we wanted to minimise losses [and] maximise our chances of holding onto seats, we needed to be able to source preferences,” Senator Cormann said at the time.
“And clearly, these weren’t going to come from Labor and the Greens.”
For the Coalition’s more conservative elements, there’s no problem with One Hanson’s erratic, sectarian, racist populism, or its loopy economic fantasies.
For Mr Turnbull though, there’s no longer a possibility of denying the stink. It’s his. It’s the smell of lost hopes.
The Liberal Party’s defacto coalition with One Nation finishes whatever pretence of principled leadership Mr Turnbull once sought to portray. It’s purely about the keys to The Lodge, whatever it takes to keep his job.
Once you’ve kowtowed to Pauline Hanson, there’s nothing left.
Somewhere, an empty leather jacket.