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Cory Bernardi and James Ashby

How will James Ashby go about subverting and undermining Cory Bernardi, asks Sydney bureau chief and Ashbygate author Ross Jones.

James Ashby can taste power.

The list is almost complete.

Pauline is in his spell, the old guard One Nation apparatchiks have been purged, Steve Dickson defected (and probably Andrew Powell to follow), polls up, talkback radio in a frenzy, the Ashbygate Liberals cowed into tacit support.

Everything rosy in the garden.

But he hadn’t counted on … The Beast.

Bernardi, The Colossus of Bigotry, is striding across the Australian Rightscape, casting a massive shadow over Ashby’s ambitions as he goes.

It was supposed to be an easy run.

One Nation holding the balance of power in Queensland and WA after the upcoming elections would provide the perfect megaphone for a tilt at a few Federal seats, with the Nats as the main victims. Maybe enough to upset the Coalition and make One Nation's Federal votes crucial to the governance of the country.

That would put Ashby at the centre of power where, if history is any guide, he would do all he could to blow everything up.

Guy Fawkes night.

So it is with some relief we welcome The Corgi’s entrance to the grand stage of freelance Australian politics. 

Bernardi is match fit and ready to go. He’s been trained in guerilla right-wing activism by the Heartland Institute, he’s got access to Gina’s bucks, support from Trump’s people and an ego the size of an over-inflated party balloon full of helium.

And these two are about to meet in the Battle of The Fringe.

Corgi’s supporters are generally further up the “refined’ curve than the One Nation's lot.

Corgi fans might read The Australian or watch 7.30; they might even have read some large books.

They surreptitiously drink lattes and pretend the Chardonnay is not theirs.

One Nation supporters, on the other hand, are a little more earthy. No-one pretends the Bundy isn’t theirs.

Avoidance of outright war between these camps is going to be tricky.

If they go their own ways they will split the far right vote. The only way for either party to garner more votes from the finite far-right pool will be to attack anyone who already has a slice of that pool.

Or they can combine their forces to enlarge the pool, the only move which can avoid a fatal fragmentation of the far-right vote.

Is this likely?

Ashby is gay. Cory thinks gay people inevitably progress to rooting non-human sex objects — like cows say, or fish.

There is no evidence Ashby gives a tinker’s cuss for religion. Cory, on the other hand, is hard Roman Catholic, perhaps the most exciting of all beliefs, if you  discount wayward priests.

Both claim Trump links, but Cory definitely has the upper hand here.

Pauline apparently had a ticket to the Donald’s inauguration, but word is she wouldn’t go without James who, as is well known, has a criminal record and might have found the visa process tricky.

Better not to apply than be denied.

Cory affects a trucker hat emblazoned ‘MAKE AUSTRALIA GREAT AGAIN’.

We are yet to see a shot of Ashby in a trucker hat.

These are two very different men.

Just as an aside, I have been avoiding discussing Pauline not because she is a woman, but because she is irrelevant except as a symbol, a face. Branding pure and simple. Much like the Skipping Girl on a vinegar bottle.

James has hijacked One Nation. Pauline does and says what he advises. He calls the shots. He is One Nation.

If James’ MO holds true – and there is no reason to think it won’t – he has already held the olive branch out to Bernardi. There’s no knowing exactly what, but you can bet it was an offer designed to move James closer to his target — Corgi.

But Corgi is not a Liberal Rat for nothing and his ability to out-rat Ashby cannot be underestimated.

Rat Vs Rat.

And may the best Rat win.

Ross Jones is the author of 'Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker'. 

You can follow Ross Jones on Twitter @RPZJones.

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