February 04, 2020 12:31:52
Nobody seriously believes that the leadership turmoil in the Nationals has been put to rest, as suggested by re-elected leader Michael McCormack.
The resignation of Bridget McKenzie as deputy leader of the Nationals provided the perfect opportunity for Barnaby Joyce to launch his bid to return to the job he believes is his rightful place and destiny.
As soon as he lost the job, he began campaigning to get it back. McCormack has today been put on neon-lights notice.
Joyce’s supporters believe he is the only one who has the ability to rebuild the Nationals and muscle up to its larger Coalition partner, the Liberals.
While they hoped the votes and momentum would swing their way in the leadership battle today, they were realistic that it was unlikely.
They are playing the long game.
There’s a bigger battle at stake
This is just part of a bigger battle for the heart and soul of the Nationals. Their verdict is that McCormack’s leadership is terminal that his performance is woeful and has diminished the party.
The history of leadership challenges in the major parties is littered with examples of the two-strike coup.
A failed first attempt often emboldens the challenger and their supporters. Words and promises that leadership tensions have been abandoned are meaningless when ambition and destabilisation are mixed.
The Prime Minister will be breathing a temporary sigh of relief the Liberals are concerned that a leadership switch to Joyce now or in the future would destabilise the Morrison Government.
The threat of renegotiating a new Coalition agreement with a new National leader, especially one known to drive a hard bargain, is unpalatable.
This fear will be used by Joyce’s supporters to make their central point that McCormack is not taken seriously by the Liberals and the PM.
Some Nationals have told me they plan to put pressure on McCormack over his handling of the sports rorts saga, saying he should have stood firm in defending McKenzie.
They threaten to embroil him in it too, as it emerges his son’s football club in the NSW Riverina also received a $147,000 grant under the program.
It’s not a good sign when your own political side is pursuing you over a saga the PM thought he was killing off.
McCormack’s grip is razor thin
The fact that the Nationals are already leaking to demonstrate that Joyce is within striking distance of seizing the leadership is an ominous sign.
The message they want to convey is that McCormack’s grip on the leadership is razor thin, that his leadership is untenable.
Some believe the second hit is imminent. Others say McCormack will be given longer.
Either way, the Nationals are no longer the party of loyalty and internal peace.