Malcolm Turnbull has a massive problem to navigate, as the sharks will invariably return to finish him off. A solution does exist, but it calls for bold action.
Unquestionably, Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership is on life support. The vote today, whilst earlier than they planned, gave those opposed to the PM within his party the opportunity to test the waters. While they would be happier with a victory to Dutton, they would still be happy with the fact that a sizeable portion of the Liberal caucus sides with them, garnering 30% of the vote. The result of this will inevitably end with another challenge, one that Turnbull won’t win.
As the news quickly broke this morning, I took a moment to think about what I would do if I was in the PM’s shoes. In front of him is an increasing division within his party that will not just threaten his leadership but continue to make it impossible to pass legislation, and will all but ensure that the next election will be handed to the Labor party on a silver platter.
So what would I do? I’d call an election, now.
On the surface, such a move sounds kamikaze in nature. The latest polls suggest that if an election was held right now, Labor would win by a significant margin. The same polls see the Libs slipping six points in the primary vote to 33% behind Labor’s 35%. Turnbull’s personal ratings see him drop nine points on approval to 46% and up ten points on disapproval to 48%.
Calling an early election may turn that tide a little. In the first instance, it would show that Turnbull isn’t going to let himself continue to be strangled by factions within his party. After the embarrassment he has suffered this week by capitulating to naysayers on the back bench with respect to the NEG policy, putting himself on the line could convince some that he isn’t the lame duck he now appears to be.
Updated. Climate targets pushed off into the never-never under NEG reset. https://t.co/GJVLthCUji
— David Crowe (@CroweDM) 20 August 2018
It would show the type of courage that the Australian public has been screaming for. Someone who is willing to lose, to win. Turnbull could stand up in front of his constituents and declare that the division inside his party currently makes it impossible to govern, and that it should be the right of the Australian people to influence how that situation is resolved.
It would take advantage of a prime window to remove some of the more destructive elements of his party; for the good of his party and the good of the country. Political preferences aside, the one thing that most of us can agree on is that we are sick of the type of internal division and knifing that began when Gillard knifed Rudd. An election right now would be bad news for Tony Abbott and those assisting him in fuelling the backroom division. We know he won’t stand down of his own accord, but perhaps now, after this morning, he could be voted out along with those who lurk in the shadows alongside him.
— The Big Smoke (@TheBigSmokeAU) 21 August 2018
It will give him the chance to have his fate decided by the Australian public, rather than his party. It would also catch the ALP unaware. Whilst the Libs and Turnbull have watched their polls get worse and worse, Bill Shorten as opposition leader hasn’t picked up enough ground yet to replace Turnbull as preferred PM. If the Libs want a chance in hell of winning the next election, then the election needs to happen with Shorten opposite.