By Tim Montgomerie
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Tony Abbott, leader of Australia's Liberals, has been in London this week and has met a range of UK politicians including Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, William Hague and, more surprisingly, Chris Huhne. I write more surprising because Abbott is no Liberal in the Liberal Democrat sense. The socially and economically conservative Abbott is riding high in Australian opinion polls by strongly opposing the Labor government's carbon tax. Abbott has also promised to cut taxes, take a tough line on immigration by "stopping the boats", and introduce more competition into the Australian economy. His full programme for government can be read here.
Abbott isn't just a more conventional conservative than David Cameron in policy terms. They are oceans apart in style, too. Cameron's approach is more consensual while Tony Abbott stakes out ground and fights for it. Cameron spent much time in opposition wooing the metropolitan vote and placed very regular OpEds in The Guardian and Observer. Abbott's focus is the "respectable" blue collar vote and he spends a lot of time on his country's talk radio stations. There's an urbane sophistication to David Cameron whereas Abbott is the blunt speaking sports fanatic.
After taking control of the party from Malcolm Turnbull - a politician very much in Cameron's image - Abbott has transformed his party's standing. Labor is only one by-election away from losing office and Abbott is on constant election alert. If he becomes Australia's next PM many UK conservatives will have renewed questions about the wisdom of Cameron's liberal conservatism.