- not lead.
There was turmoil in Downunder politics yesterday when the Prime Minister was challenged and lost the leadership.
Now I will admit the PM was not popular. He was however a basically decent man who tried to do the right thing and, in doing so, he made more enemies than friends. He made some errors of judgment. He was criticised for some "Captain's picks" but more because, for the most part, his style was consultative rather than combative. (Yes, that may come as a surprise to many Downunderites but it is what more than one of his colleagues told me.)
In my personal dealings with him when he was Minister for Health in a previous government he was a gentleman, polite and courteous. He listened to what those of approaching him had to say and acted on it. Others said the same thing.
It is not a view we ever got from the media. They wanted the new man from the start. The new man was once a member of the Labor Party. He transferred his allegiance out of self-interest. He's a "Republican" who has his eye on one day being "President" here.
He eventually won and then lost the leadership to the man he has just ousted and he has been determined to win it back.
Yesterday he acted out of sheer self-interest. He had been stirring up trouble for months by leaking from Cabinet meetings - and getting others to do it for him as well - no doubt on the promise of "When I am PM you will be Minister for..."
He made a move of tactical brilliance - waiting for the PM to be out of Canberra, knowing that there was a by-election coming up that was being seen as a "test" of the PM's leadership.
He could have waited until after the by-election which is just days away but internal polling was in the Prime Minister's favour. The government's candidate would have won the seat comfortably. The confected reason to act would not have been there. So Turnbull went ahead and acted, quite possibly losing the seat and a potentially very good candidate as well. I doubt it worries him.
In the end the vote was not a resounding endorsement of his "leadership". It was just 54-44. That might be a landslide percentage at an election but it is not for a party which is supposed to be united. He will also lose some good experienced people and he may find having to renegotiate with the Coalition partners harder than he thinks.
He may have what he wants. The media may have what it wants - for now. The price both may have to pay and the country will certainly have to pay is very heavy indeed.