Liberal leader Brendan Nelson will host a two day love-in for his colleagues before parliament returns next month.

The meeting is designed “to give MPs the chance to vent their feelings about the election loss and hammer out a strategy to take the Coalition forward,” The Australian reports today.

There are other Liberals, however, who would like to vent.

Many rank and file faithful feel isolated and ignored. They need a chance to vent, too. The party faithful can be a valuable resource in opposition, yet believe that have been forgotten.

They were increasingly marginalised as power accumulated around the leader’s office under John Howard and campaigning functions were funded out of the public purse.

Brendan Nelson has continued with this centralisation and concentration of power. Writing in the Bulletin last week, Peter van Onselen stated:

Brendan Nelson has sacrificed his shadow ministers in order to strengthen his own office…

The Coalition was allocated 70 advisers following Rudd’s cut to staffing ranks. The National Party takes nearly 20 positions, leaving only 50 advisers to be allocated to Liberal Party portfolios.

Nelson has reserved almost 30 positions for his private office. Nelson’s personal staff is not only substantially larger than the shadow cabinet, it almost outnumbers the entire shadow ministry.

Senior shadows and their staff say they simply do not know what is happening in the leader’s office.

It is assumed that Nelson is attempting to create an opposition version of the Coalition’s old taxpayer-funded campaign unit, the Government Members Secretariat. He also appears to be building a media unit and media monitoring machine.

The concentration of the parliamentary party and Nelson’s office mean that the Liberal Party organisation is being ignored.

Sources say, however, that Federal Director Brian Loughnane is trying to guarantee that he will survive the post-mortems on the party’s loss. He appears to enjoy the protection of Senate Leader Nick Minchin, who also delivered the numbers to Nelson.

Instead, there is speculation that Loughnane’s deputy, Linda Reynolds, will become the sacrificial lamb.

And in more bad news for the Libs, the ALP is increasing their margin.

According to the according to the first Morgan Poll of federal voting intention for 2008, Labor’s primary vote stands at a massive 51.5%.

Labor’s primary vote is up two points from the last Morgan Poll and 8.1% above its election result of 43.4. The Coalition is on 33%, down 1% from the last Morgan Poll and 9.1% below its election result of 42.1%.

Support for the Greens has dropped 2.5% to 8%. Family First have dropped 0.5% to 2%, and support for other parties is on 5.5%, a rise of two points.

The ALP holds a commanding 23% two party preferred lead of 61.5%, up 1%, compared to the Coalition’s 38.5%.

Peter Fray

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