If I won’t, who will?
— trumpeter-contortionist of my acquaintance.

Guy Rundle, Crikey, September 9, 2009:
Is this the worst Australian Opposition leader evuh? He is certainly in the running. He is failing his party on every front. He lacks the skills and appetites to lead an intellectual renovation of Australian liberalism/conservatism, his strategic leadership has been obscure, and his tactical moves have been blunderful to watch.

He gets nothing right, and everything wrong. He has the least aptitude for frontline politics of anyone in recent memory. He is the proverbial leader of Winston Churchill’s mantra on Tory supremos (“if he is a drunk he must be propped up, a philanderer covered up for, etc etc … if he is no good he must be poleaxed”).

Glenn Milne, The Australian, September 7, 2009:
The speech also represented a psychological breakthrough for Turnbull among his own supporters. One of the intangibles that has strained at Turnbull’s leadership internally is the idea that he is fundamentally an outsider; that the Liberal leadership is just another addition to an impressive CV. In the minds of those who counted on Saturday, Turnbull dealt with those doubts. By all accounts he was given an embarrassingly long ovation … Said one senior federal figure: …’For the first time on Saturday we could collectively start to see a future post-Howard’ …

In its most immediate sense that future, for Turnbull at least, hangs on the Bradfield by-election. He must contain any swing against the Liberals for his leadership to remain viable. No one in the Liberal Party is so optimistic to predict a swing to them. To achieve that Turnbull would really have to his mojo working.
At least for the faithful there were signs of just that this weekend.

Guy Rundle, Crikey, August 4, 2009:
Turnbull is dead. The prime bull is now a side of beef hanging from a hook. His political skills are laughable  – witness his ad-hoc announcement of campaign finance reform to cut out corporate donations, a move that would destroy the Liberal Party and make the Greens the best-funded party in Australia. The party organisation would rather lose half a dozen elections than corporate funding. So Turnbull has made enemies of both the inner party, and the general public, the latter regarding him as not only a dill, but (in the wake of the Grech affair) as “not much of a bloke”.

Leader, The Australian, August 25, 2009:
In so many ways, Mr Turnbull is the sort of person we need in politics — smart, articulate and with an open mind on a range of issues important to the nation’s future …
The Opposition Leader blamed Labor gossip-mongering for the weekend reports. What is clear is that the Prime Minister and his team are in danger of going over the top in their continual hectoring of Mr Turnbull. It raises the question of whether they fear that, given time, he just might recover from the OzCar debacle and gain traction with their own centrist constituency.

Guy Rundle, Crikey, 23 June, 2009:
Even if it were possible to leave an Opposition leader in place after a defeat, Turnbull is not the man. As this correspondent noted at the time of the 2007 election, the plain fact is that Turnbull is not a politician in the way that John Howard, or Tony Abbott, or Paul Keating or Bob Brown or Kevin Rudd are politicians – people for whom their movement is a vocation, demanding as Max Weber noted, “a slow drilling through hard timber”.

Turnbull proved this during the failed Republican referendum of 1998. Someone willing to do a bit of slow drilling would have noted that a majority voted for the Republic, and that only sleight-of-hand by the Rodent managed to delay it. That Pyrrhic defeat would have been the staging point to really build the ARM as a social movement – develop branches, widen its remit and visibility, take Republicanism to the point where it appears inevitable.

Instead, denied the chance to be the first Australian President, and faced with the grey and monotonous task of building a movement, he couldn’t face it. Just as he hasn’t really been able to face the task of redefining the Liberal party after voters comprehensively rejected its mix of social conservatism and neoliberalism.

Had he had the patience for that, he would have let Brendan Nelson – a man who makes your average Mr Blowie look like Lord Salisbury – take the fall for the first defeat (or whoever else replaced him).

The dire straits for the Liberal Party are that of its two most recent leaders, one was a former member of the ALP, and the other wasn’t really a politician at all, simply someone who wants to do everything for about two years before moving onto the next thing.

Given that conspectus, it should be obvious that Turnbull, a man who has measured his life in court cases and deals, would always go for the quick score – and be particularly oblivious to the fact that it all seemed too good to be true.

Dennis Shanahan, The Australian June 30, 2009:
The Liberal Party has decided there is no alternative to Malcolm Turnbull … Yesterday there was a universal conclusion that none of the potential leadership alternatives  —  Joe Hockey, Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Andrew Robb or Peter Dutton — was ready to step up for various reasons. What’s more, the drama of dumping another leader before the election unified Liberal views. More than one senior Liberal said yesterday the party would look like the Democrats and become a politguy runical joke.

Peter Fray

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