It’s been an extraordinary weekend for political observers, with revelations of Hawke family slapping contests in the Chairmanâ€™s Lounge, (Senator Bill Heffernan) Heff bringing back the biffÂ at Fridayâ€™s Liberal Right faction function and an incredibly tight Liberal federal council presidency battle that saw the installation of colourful LNP anti-Nats warrior Santo Santoro. The Greens party, of course, demanded their share of attention with their bizarre creation of shadow ministers for high-speed rail, whaling, Antarctica, teeth and Tibet. Even the inter-sexed were not excluded.
Thereâ€™s enough in all that to write thousands of words. But we wonâ€™t as VEXNEWS hopefully corrected server was out of action over the weekend.
But we felt obliged to commemorate the awesome, the awe-inspiring deeds of retiring Senator Nick Minchin, without question the most skilled numbers-man or political organiser in conservative politics. And one of the best ever.
He delivered Tony Abbott the federal party leadership, by one vote. Abbott has since led the Coalition to a narrow election loss (that they probably should have won if their NSW division had have been sharper) and to a winning position in the polls.
Abbottâ€™s leadership is under challenge though, in very quiet, sneaky ways. Other than when Minchin made it happen, most observers tell VEXNEWS that Abbottâ€™s conservative tendency doesnâ€™t generally have anything like the numbers in his own party room, for reasons we have previously explored at length. We wonâ€™t revisit them but we note aspiring Liberal MP and Baillieu faction player Tom Elliott on 3AW today observed to Neil Mitchell that the more the Australian people see of Abbott the less they like him. This is the Liberal moderate narrative, expressed at increasing volume.
We have long had the view that Minchinâ€™s departure will make life even more politically dangerous or at least random for Abbott.
Minchin proved that most emphatically by again cobbling together a majority â€“ of one â€“ for his/Abbottâ€™s candidate.
The spin from some that Abbott had backed Reith is simply not the case, his people say. He not only showed Stockdale his ballot to remove any doubt but his interests were very vitally served by not having Reith elected.
Reith was all but committed to shaking up the Liberal party secretariat, where key Abbott ally, Brian Loughnane runs the show, seeing off all challengers, for now. But Loughnane has many foes who say he wasnâ€™t hard enough at Labor at the last election and wasnâ€™t a good fund-raiser.
Of course, Loughnaneâ€™s campaign nearly defeated a first-term government and, now, the money is really starting to flow into conservative coffers of all kinds. The party secretariatâ€™s financial troubles are well and truly on the way to being solved, we hear, substantially undermining arguments for Loughnaneâ€™s removal.
Anyway, while Stockdale was re-elected, it was retiring Senator Nick Minchin who was the winner. He bows out in true champion style, picking his own time, and squeezing out just one victory to prove that, if family commitments didnâ€™t summon, he could have kept going and going and going.
Thereâ€™s no-one who comes to close to matching his numbers-man skills in conservative politics.
Tony Abbott will sorely miss him.
Some Abbott backers hope theyâ€™ll be able to seduce Minchin back to the game by becoming party president but heâ€™s told all that he needs a break and â€œdoesnâ€™t want it.â€ Perhaps the year his guy is going in to the mother-of-all-battles 2013 federal election will be the right timing for the return of the warrior.