Does anyone honestly imagine that Brendan Nelson is up to the job? Is it even remotely conceivable that he could be the man with the vision and political wherewithal to lead the Liberal Party back from the brink of what looks to all the world like a steaming pit of backbiting and recrimination? And never mind the internal dynamic, Nelson’s party also has to take the fight up to the Rudd government, a government filled with pretty urgent purpose and the confidence of a ringing mandate. Government departments across Canberra are beside themselves at the moment with the policy demands of their new ministers; ministers in turn are jumping to please their new workaholic, policy wonk PM. COAG will meet before Christmas. The PM is in Bali. The world is changing around the Liberal Opposition at breakneck speed. This is no time to be squabbling over the spoils of defeat.   

Paul Kelly laid it out for Nelson this morning in The Australian:

He must assert his authority inside the Liberal Party or he will sink. He must also establish his authority with Liberal voters … The Liberal Party thrives on authority figures: witness R.G. Menzies, Malcolm Fraser and John Howard. Cast into Opposition without an authority figure, its usual fate is to fight and to factionalise. So Nelson’s first task, despite the manifest risks involved, is to be bold.

Only by being bold can he establish his credibility. There is no other strategy. And the signs are that Nelson knows this.

What Kelly doesn’t say, is that no-one in their right mind could imagine that Nelson is up to the job. Does he stand for anything other than his own survival? Which leaves the Liberals where, exactly?