It’s never a good look when the leader of a political party gets mugged by his own caucus, more so when he hasn’t even been sworn into office after a historic victory.

That’s just what happened yesterday to Northern Territory Country Liberal Party leader and Chief Minister-elect Terry Mills, who was rolled over his choice of deputy by his own parliamentary wing in their first post-election meeting.

Early last week Mills faced an unnecessary mess wholly of his own making after saying that he would leave the choice of his deputy leader for the party to decide after the election. That is in line with accepted practice in the CLP but it wasn’t a good look for someone running for the top job.

On Tuesday last, Mills back-flipped, telling the NT News that Kezia Purick, his deputy leader since 2008, would retain the position after the election. “Kezia is my deputy. Kezia will be — if we’re successful on August the 25th — deputy chief minister,” he told the ABC’s election forum in Darwin’s Smith street mall.

Reality bit Mills on the bum at yesterday’s CLP caucus meeting in Darwin when Purick was rolled as deputy to be replaced by Alice Springs MLA Robyn Lambley.

Yesterday Mills told the ABC he had not “technically” broken any promises. Purick wasn’t so polite and sounded very bitter that after four years as loyal deputy that she had been “rolled and ditched by my colleagues and my leader. But that’s the way it goes.” Purick also wanted to know if Mills had cast his vote for her.

Purick told the NT News this morning: If Terry Mills wanted me as his deputy he would’ve made it happen, same as it happens in the Labor camp. Let’s not kid ourselves.”

Lambley was elected to represent the safe CLP Alice Springs suburban seat of Araluen in a 2010 byelection following the resignation of former party leader Jodeen Carney. She is seen as a safe — and perhaps the only — choice for the CLP deputy.

With strong representation outside of Darwin, it made good sense that the deputy should come from the bush. Adam Giles, the CLP member for Braitling in Alice Springs, is seen by many as responsible for the CLP’s recent electoral success in the bush and thus best well-deserving of the deputy’s job. Problem for Giles is that he is an ally of Fong Lim MLA Dave Tollner. Tollner, who made a clumsy attempt for the top job in 2010, is considered a likely future challenger to Mills leadership.

So Lambley it is. For now. Yesterday she gave every sign she wouldn’t be taking a backward step in the job. ABC Radio again:

The new Country Liberal’s deputy, Robyn Lambley says Kezia Purick should have been aware the position of deputy would have been subject to a vote after the election. Robyn Lambley said it is a Country Liberals tradition for the leadership roles to be vacated and refilled at the party’s first meeting.

Robyn Lambley: “Kezia knew what was going to happen and for Kezia to pretend that she didn’t and expect to be just put in there without that democratic process occurring is simply a bit silly if that is indeed what she thinks.”

There was a lot less blood on the floor over at Labor, where ex-chief minister Paul Henderson was replaced by his deputy Delia Lawrie. Member for Barkly Gerry McCarthy has been appointed deputy opposition leader.