A few weeks ago I dinged Turnbull for his seeming drift as leader of the party. As far as anyone could see, it was the same party, with the same people in charge from 07, just a different name on the leaders door. The problem here was it was a waste of Turnbull’s skills, artificial to his character & world view, and reflected poorly on his authority within the party. Perhaps however I was too hasty in judgment:
Mr Turnbull is convinced the Liberal Party organisation needs to be revamped, its finances restored and new talent injected wherever possible.
Mr Turnbull said yesterday that the decision of Dr Nelson not to contest the next election was “an opportunity to bring new talent in, and every political party has to renew itself all thetime”.
At the moment, Mr Turnbull, or Liberal forces associated with him, have looked at unseating [Federal Party President] Mr Stockdale next month, supplanting party executive director Brian Loughnane, replacing the Senate leadership team of Nick Minchin and Eric Abetz and, once and for all, heading off Peter Costello.
Long-serving Liberals are critical of Mr Turnbull’s style and claim that “he is trying to turn the Liberal Party into the Turnbull Party”.
“This party was founded by Robert Menzies and any attempts to turn it into a personal fiefdom will be resisted,” one said.
Even the fact that Turnbull is trying to change the leadership council for the party is a good sign. It’s a sign he’s feeling confident (or daring) enough to push for change, and for the party offers its only potential revival. Loughane, Costello, Minchin and Abetz are yesterday’s men, as is Nelson. The sooner they are gone, the better for the party. Such changes not only help their media profile but offer an opportunity for updating (and indeed uniting around) a set of core beliefs and identity that can recruit new members, bind old ones and be sold to the public as a set of values to rival Labors. Turnbull also has finally taken the bull by the horns and declared Costello has had his chance. Everyone who follows politics seriously has known this since the moment Costello turned down the leadership on election night, especially the media swags who keep trying to revive it for good copy. Turnbull’s acknowledgment of the obvious is a fair sign he’s realised Costello wont play nice and simply go away, but has to be driven out like the loser he is (Policy wise Costello was a fine politician, politically he is one of the least successful in 30 years given his obvious talents)
But take again a look at that criticism in the highlighted quotes above – The unnamed critic is decrying the idea of the Liberal Party being a Personal Fiefdom by invoking Robert Menzies ? The man who single handedly ruled the party for 20 years and drastically weakened its chances of success after his retirement through a systematic process of sabotaging potential rivals in a way that would have made Joseph Stalin blush. The liberal party was Menzies personal fiefdom (for good and ill), if Turnbull’s critics want to get at him, they could probably benefit by withholding from comparing him to the revered founding father of their party. Just a thought…