After an extraordinary week in the history of Australian politics, the Liberal Party chose a leader who will lose dozens of marginal seats. He will run a rump party, confined to political exile for a generation.

Tony Abbott’s leadership will not be about claiming the centre ground. It will be about pandering to the far right and centre right — his core constituency.

He will be cheered by the heartland but jeered by mainstream Australian men and women.

This result — unexpected, unprecedented and almost unexplainable — changes the dynamic in Australian politics.

This week the Liberal Party imploded. It ceased to exist as a progressive “broad church”. For many unaligned Australians it was exposed as a conservative cabal of misfits, deniers, naysayers and idiots.

“We will end up being a fringe party of the far right,” Malcolm Turnbull told Laurie Oakes on Sunday, if the climate-change deniers win the day.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall in their meeting this morning. Hockey the first to be eliminated — after wanting a free vote on what is economic policy! And the contest was then between the progressive Turnbull and the conservative Abbott.

What’s certain is that this vote was not about the ETS. It was about the heart and soul and core of what the Liberal Party stands for and where it’s headed.

It was also about bruised egos, simmering resentments, personal hatreds, relevance and ambition.

It was not about good public policy, or what was right for Australia. It was not about tackling the most serious issue of many generations. It was never about that.

Three national polls were published over the past few days. All showed a landslide to Labor.

That landslide will continue. Whether the ETS is good or flawed public policy, what is certain is that the broad electorate are mightily concerned about the changing global climate. They see it every day in their own lives.

A party that goes to the people denying that certainty will be obliterated. And the political implications will be felt for a generation.

The ALP campaign will be a classic — and will feature Turnbull, Ian MacFarlane and Hockey.

The ad featuring Turnbull’s face will be simple, with words to the effect of: “What does it say about the character of the Liberal Party if, having entered into an agreement, we were to simply say we have changed our minds, we are going to renege on the deal? How could you trust us?” Indeed. And you can think of the lines from Hockey and Macfarlane over the past weeks that would fit an ALP sound bite.

Abbott is a talented writer, brainy, occasionally charismatic — and a man of conservative values and convictions.

But the problem is that a core conviction is on the wrong side of the climate-change debate.

Women will instinctively shy away from him — especially young mothers, a vital constituency for any aspiring PM.

Until today the contest was between two mainstream political candidates — Rudd and Turnbull.

That’s changed, irrevocably. It is between the mainstream Labor Party under Rudd and a far right party under Abbott with heavy input from Nick Minchin.

The line in the sand has never been clearer. Stand by for fireworks, an early double dissolution election next year, campaigning by shock jocks and News Limited on behalf of Abbott — and a massive Labor win.

Peter Fray

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