The Liberal Party’s federal executive meets in Canberra today, and the shadow ministry has its first meeting.

Federal party president Chris McDiven seems determined to stay for now, but it is expected a new person for the position will be chosen at the federal council meeting due in the middle of next year.

A federal frontbencher pointed out the irony to Crikey: “The people demanding McDiven go wouldn’t tell John Howard his time was up.”

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There is no doubt that the Liberal Party is in denial. At the NSW state council meeting last week, the former PM was given a standing ovation, but he is no conquering hero.

Instead, he is the man who, while wearing a mantle of unfettered authority, chose not to intervene in dysfunctional state branches, did nothing to halt the slide in party members and gave succour to extremists in his home division.

New leader Brendan Nelson’s judgement is already being questioned. Does he really believe the brains behind “The things that batter”, Alexander Downer, should be the party president, or former ministers for hire Richard Alston and Michael Wooldridge?

Nelson was elected with the backing of the party’s Howard loyalists and Nick Minchin’s “national right” and in the face of a cross-factional coalition of younger MPs who supported Malcolm Turnbull.

Many members of the parliamentary party believe the election of a new leader was held too early, and considerable bad blood remains over the rulings on who could participate in the ballot.

There are already murmurings in the parliamentary party that Nelson will simply do what he needs to do to survive, not what he should do for the party.

The Liberal right are sticking with their dogma, despite the message voters sent to the party three weeks ago. They refuse to acknowledge that they have taken the Liberals into political territory their beloved mainstream voters are simply not comfortable with.

Despite being strapped for cash and talent, riven by factional conflict and out of office everywhere, they believe the answer is more of the same.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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