Turnbull promises the Liberals a wild ride. He’s a risk taker. He could be an upmarket version of Mark Latham who could really rattle the Prime Minister’s cage in a way Dr Nelson didn’t appear able to do. Of course, ultimately Latham couldn’t beat an opponent seen as a “safe pair of hands” and Turnbull – however spectacular he might be – could well look impetuous compared with the reassuring Rudd.
If the worst criticism the Liberals have against Labor and Rudd is that he is a “do-nothing”, Labor MPs will smile the knowing smiles of those who know the government is managing reasonably well. Their worst fear is that it will score a series of own-goals on emissions trading, alcopops taxes and other schemes that sound great in Parliament House but hurt voters in marginal seats.
The result came despite confident assertions from the Nelson camp this morning. “This will expose Turnbull’s bluster for what it is,” one said. “Nelson expects an emphatic endorsement which he will use as a mandate for action.” It wasn’t to be.
This action had been reported to include a clean-out of the Liberal front-bench, with the Leader’s focus being on those engaged in media commentary about the leadership, particularly Tony Abbott. The former leader’s office felt humiliated over the debacle relating to the emissions trading system where Nelson had pledged to take a strong position against the government but appeared to have been rolled by his colleagues.
Turnbull’s followers point to poor opinion polls, with some reportedly even questioning the legitimacy of this morning’s meeting because of the lack of warning provided by Nelson to his rival.
“A sign they’re going to lose, if ever there was one,” our party insider erroneously declared this morning.
The meeting started at 9am with the result leaking around half an hour later.