Seemingly not content with meddling in Australian politics, Sky News Australia host and conservative commentator Peta Credlin appears to have extended her ambitions to the United Kingdom.
While most political observers in her home country were trying to work out whether Ms Credlin was serious about running for the federal seat of Mallee, the former chief of staff to Tony Abbott was in the UK last week, being feted by some sections of the media and causing grief for British PM Theresa May over Brexit.
If you’re wondering how an admittedly notorious but low-rating commentator (Ms Credlin’s show rates 50,000 viewers on a good night, just slightly more than Peppa Pig) came to be a minor celebrity in the UK, it was due to a NewYear’s Eve tweet by former Murdoch journalist and now UK media personality, Piers Morgan.
Mr Morgan had stumbled across a Sky News Australia video of Ms Credlin telling her viewers in mid-December how Britain should be handling its exit (that is, Brexit) from the European Union. He tweeted the video to his 6.5 million followers, saying: “Just watched this. Can we make this Aussie newsreader our Prime Minister with immediate effect?”
Just watched this. Can we make this Aussie newsreader our Prime Minister with immediate effect? https://t.co/J0n6tklTvF
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) 31 December 2018
Things snowballed from there. Morgan’s comment was retweeted more than 2000 times by his followers, and the original video was kicked along even further by pro-Brexit politicians and commentators, including right-wing broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer and Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes.
News Corp journalist Rita Panahi, who is also a Sky News Australia host, responded to the tweets from Morgan and Ms Hartley-Brewer, explaining who Ms Credlin was and suggesting they should make the most of the former prime ministerial staffer’s imminent trip to the UK.
Ms Hartley-Brewer followed through, tweeting an excerpt from her interview this week with Ms Credlin.
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) January 11, 2019
During the interview, Ms Credlin said she wouldn’t presume to give anyone free advice from Australia, but then said the world was watching this “unfolding catastrophe” very closely and that having “worked on the inside of government for 16 years”, Britain’s struggle with Brexit “should not have been this hard”.
Ms Credlin was scathing of the approach being taken by the British PM.
“You should square your shoulders Britain,” Ms Credlin said. “Put something on the table and walk away. Bugger Europe, they need you far more than you need them … a bit of bulldog spirit there. I want to see Britain look and sound the way it used to look and sound.”
When asked what Britain should do now, Ms Credlin said, “You should plan for a no-deal Brexit”.
Which is quite spooky, given that Ms Credlin’s former boss, Tony Abbott, has been saying exactly the same thing.
During a podcast interview posted only days before Morgan discovered Ms Credlin, Mr Abbott said: “No deal that the EU gives Britain will be a good deal. Therefore, from the beginning, Britain should have been preparing for a no-deal exit.”
In fact, the similarities between Ms Credlin’s thoughts on Brexit and those of Mr Abbott don’t stop there.
The ‘no-deal’ approach outlined in her Sky News editorial appears to have been lifted – in some parts word for word – from an October 2018 article penned by Mr Abbott for the British magazine The Spectator. The magazine recently tweeted that Mr Abbott’s column was its fourth most popular article for 2018.
It’s unlikely however that Mr Abbott will sue Ms Credlin for plagiarism. As is often the case with the former PM and his key strategist, it can be hard to tell where his rhetoric ends and her commentary begins. More often than not, they’re speaking off the same hymn sheet.
But why their keen interest in Brexit, given its limited relevance to Australia? Could it have anything to do with Ms Credlin’s current boss, Rupert Murdoch, who is reportedly known for directly and indirectly meddling in the political affairs of nations?
As for Ms Credlin’s ex-boss, Mr Abbott, he originally was against Brexit but then backflipped, saying he was “quietly thrilled” when the referendum in June 2016 showed a majority of British people wanted their country to leave the EU.
Despite being a humble backbencher representing a Sydney electorate, Mr Abbott has since given a number of pro-Brexit speeches.
In 2017, he joined the international advisory panel of the Institute for Free Trade, a British think tank established by a key Brexit supporter. And after his scathing assessment of Prime Minister May in that Spectator article, Mr Abbott was even accused of ‘secretly’ colluding with her leadership rival, Boris Johnson.
Only Mr Abbott and Ms Credlin – and probably her husband Brian Loughnane – know for sure why the two are dabbling in the political affairs of another nation.
Mr Loughnane has a strong reputation in Britain as the former federal director of the Liberal Party, and is currently an assistant chairman of the International Democrat Union, an international alliance of centre-right to right wing political parties.
Moderate voters in the former PM’s federal seat of Warringah are increasingly dissatisfied with Mr Abbott’s hardline conservative stance on key issues such as climate change. And unless Ms Credlin’s show moves into another timeslot, she’s stuck with poor ratings.
This would make the prospect of new careers in the UK look decidedly attractive. Does Brexit provide Mr Abbott and Ms Credlin with a political Plan B?