It seems in politics, no party is immune from the growing fad of speculative leadership talk these days.
A common phrase you will hear around the corridors of Parliament House is “a week is a long time in politics”, and with the Liberals leadership bedded in for a week, it must have been long overdue for a party to have the microscope run over its machinations at the top.
Tongues were wagging in some circles around the Riverina at local MP Michael McCormack’s curious new title – Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister – as some sort of sign that he may be about to be fashioned into some sort of new heir apparent.
The truth – how dare it get in the way of such a good story – is much more benign however. Warren Truss, not getting any younger at 66, has to juggle being a party leader, Deputy Prime Minister and one of the government’s most demanding portfolios.
Wise heads prevailed and decided he could use an extra pair of hands with one of those tasks – enter Mr McCormack.
The Nationals often like to tell anyone who would listen they are the most stable party in the country, free from the ructions that have plagued both the Labor Party and the Liberals in the past five years.
A quick look at the party’s history would tell you why no one in the parliament is overly keen to “bring it on” and challenge for the top job.
If a week is a long time in politics, 28 years is an eternity, but no one in the party will ever forget how then-Queensland Nationals premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen rode in from Queensland, ran roughshod over both the federal party and the Coalition agreement and condemned both his own party and the Liberals to nearly another decade in the political wilderness.
So too do some Nationals figures like to tell the story of Charles Blunt whenever leadership speculation rears its head – the only party leader to have rolled his predecessor, in this case Ian Sinclair, in a spill.
Curiously, Mr Blunt to this day remains the only Nationals leader since the 1920s never granted the use of “the Honourable” style with his name – as he never served as a government minister.
An ominous portent to how a challenge might be viewed today in the party, indeed.
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