Brendan Nelson did the right thing by his party last year when he called a partyroom spill in an effort to end the constant speculation about his leadership. He was effective in that regard, since after that there was no Nelson leadership about which to speculate. But that’s politics, and at least he went down fighting.

Quitting early and calling a by-election is a parting gift to Malcolm Turnbull, who never accepted Nelson as leader and never hid that fact.

But there are plenty of other Liberals who should follow Nelson’s example and determine that, if they’re not going to make a contribution any more, they should give up their seat for someone who will. In fact there are a couple not too far away from Bradfield on Sydney’s North Shore. Bronwyn Bishop, an embarrassing relic of the early nineties, is one. Phillip Ruddock, whose entire contribution to public life since the 2007 election has been to suggest Rebiya Kadeer should not have been allowed in the country (she’s lucky he didn’t want her sent to Nauru) is another.

Go further afield and there’s plenty more. Wilson Tuckey will be challenged at the next election by a National who will carry the hopes of all three major parties. Joanna Gash remains unknown after 13 years in Parliament. Julian McGauran offers nothing except the occasional injection of pastoralist cash. Pat Farmer is an almost certain loser. If the next election goes the way current polls suggests, safe seats will be crucial to preserving a base of talent within the Liberal Party that can prosper as the Rudd Government ages. Wasting them on duds like Bishop, Tuckey and Ruddock is criminal.

As for Nelson, he was over-emotional and out of his depth as Opposition Leader, but he was decent and gutsy and understood that his important task was to start moving the party on from the Howard years. He served the Liberals well.