Who should be leader of the opposition? Perhaps we should first ask why anyone would want the job? Opposition leaders who take over after their party has been thrown out of government in this country don’t have a good time of it. Doc Evatt. Billy Snedden. Andrew Peacock. Kim Beazley.

Crikey understands the vote could be as early as Thursday. Malcolm Turnbull seems streets ahead in the race to become Liberal leader. As well he should be. He carries the least baggage.

The Liberals give their leaders the opportunity to shape the party in their own image. Turnbull has been talking as if he plans to rescue a company from liquidation.

“I’m committed to enterprise, individualism, freedom, the Liberal values are ones I have lived my whole life,” he said yesterday. “All through my business life, I’ve have been an entrepreneur, a self-starter, somebody that has created wealth and used my own energy and worked with others to make opportunities for myself and for the people around me.”

Liberals should be able to relate to that.

Turnbull has immediately sought to pull the party to the centre, using the symbolic issue of Kyoto. That talk on the topic, first reported by Crikey, was leaked during the campaign looks like smart thinking by Turnbull.

While Turnbull is regarded with suspicion by some in the party, he has got in first and offered most. He should get the job.

Tony Abbott stands for too much. Brendan Nelson stands for nothing.

Paul Keating said of the former Labor rank and file member yesterday: “I liked him more when he had the ring in his ear, actually”. Nelson discarded the earring several years ago. Throughout his career, it seems, he has discarded principles with the same alacrity as he has discarded wives.

Remember the poster for schools of Simpson and his donkey? Now, Nelson is calling for a return to “fundamental liberal values”. Turnbull occupied that ground first.

During the last parliament, Nelson assiduously wooed backbenchers and marginal MPs, always making himself available for functions. His supporters have lost their seats. He does not have the numbers.

This is a Turnbull/Abbott contest. It’s the liberal versus the conservative. The ascetic versus the flamboyant. Oppositions need to be noticed. The flamboyant will win.

The deputy’s position may be the more interesting competition.

Joe Hockey could have been a contender. He is affable. That can be a weakness in a leader, but a real quality for a 2iC.

Chris Pyne lacks the gravitas for a leadership position. Andrew Robb is perfect in many ways, particularly after his experience as the Liberals’ federal director in opposition, but seems wooden as a front man.

Which leaves Julie Bishop. Bishop and Turnbull enjoyed a very close relationship in republic campaign days. Will that help or hinder?

Bishop has had a charmed political life – no slips, but no tests either. Is she competent or glib and superficial? How can a managing partner of Clayton Utz present like an agent from Di Jones Woollahra?

The Nationals only offer buffoons, incompetents or geriatrics. Are they brave enough to choose Barnaby Joyce?

Which brings us to the Senate. John Howard suspended democracy in his party, appointing people to the leadership team when Richard Alston and Robert Hill retired.

Nick Minchin was very much one of his people, along with deputy Helen Coonan.

Now that the Liberals need to make their own decisions, it will be interesting to see if they can chose right.