Former Labor Party member and union boss Brendan Nelson has been elected Liberal Party leader this afternoon in Canberra, 45 votes to 42. Western Australian Julie Bishop has been elected as his deputy.

Nelson’s election has come as a surprise. In the lead-up to the vote today, senior Liberals suggested Turnbull’s can-do approach would deliver much more in opposition than Nelson’s conciliatory style.

In contrast, Bishop’s election was expected. Chris Pyne’s candidacy has done much to boost his profile, but he was given little chance. Andrew Robb campaigned poorly, coming across as dull and wooden.

Nelson’s election marks a win in a cross-harbour competition that has been running silently but surely for some time. Mutterings have been coming out of Bradfield about the past business dealings of Nelson’s rival for some time – and how they could affect him as leader. These may have ultimately scuttled Turnbull’s chances.

Peter Costello may not have helped, either. He was backing Turnbull, but may have carried little authority after Sunday.

This is scarcely an emphatic win. It is a terrible way for the Liberals to start their time in opposition.

Still, the Liberals have called in the doctor. Will he have a cure for their electoral woes? Will the cure be worse than the disease?

It will be a long time before the Liberals are well again. Still, they can take some comfort as they swallow their medicine: Brendan Nelson is opposed to euthanasia.

Peter Fray

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