The Liberal Party is in desperate need of leadership.

The party – from frontbench parliamentarians down to rank and file members – usually let their leader do their thinking for them.

He’s lost his seat.

It is impossible to understate the dire circumstances of the party.

The Liberals are out of power everywhere. Their best and brightest strategists will get two weeks’ pay and then be out of work. The party does not look after its own. It has no institutions to park them in – unions, Hawker Brittons or whatever. The donations will evaporate. Their staff will scatter.

But who should be Liberal leader? Tony Abbott stands for too much. Brendan Nelson stands for nothing. Nelson assiduously wooed backbenchers and marginal MPs, always making himself available for functions. His supporters have lost their seats.

Alexander Downer could be an acceptable stopgap, but that would be all.

Malcolm Turnbull seems to be the man, a newcomer relatively untainted by the Howard years, but he will need to overcome enormous suspicion – let alone a ferocious whispering campaign from all sides on his past.

Still, he is from NSW – the Liberals Augean stables. George Megalogenis said this on Insiders yesterday:

I suspect Jackie Kelly tipped [Bennelong] over the line for Maxine McKew. Her performance that Thursday morning on AM radio… my understanding of the tracking polls, a few of them went mad on Thursday night. There was actually swings back to Labor in marginals where there were previously narrowings through the week.

The hard right Liberals John Howard indulged – or at least turned a blind eye to – have made the Liberals unelectable.

Malcolm Turnbull know this.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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