Saturday, December 1, 2007

Turnbull, the Liberal's Latham

Crikey, this bloke wants to be Prime Minister? He's as erratic a Mark Latham.

MALCOLM Turnbull stormed into the new Liberal leader's parliamentary office within an hour of Thursday's leadership vote, tearing into Brendan Nelson over his "funereal speech" and urging him to toughen up.

Surrounded by cardboard boxes and his staff in a temporary office, Brendan Nelson looked up.

The Liberal Party's campaign director, Brian Loughnane, was in the room offering congratulations, as was Nelson's press secretary, former journalist Nigel Blunden, and his senior adviser, Simon Berger.

Nelson's newly elected deputy, Julie Bishop, had just left the room to freshen up her makeup for the leadership team's first press conference, leaving the Liberal leader in his cramped new office with his staff when Turnbull stormed through the door.

Nelson, touched by the support of his colleagues earlier that day, who backed him over Turnbull, had been moved to tears in the partyroom and was humbled by this moment of Liberal Party history.

Turnbull was not. "That speech was funereal," the multi-millionaire MP exploded, attacking Nelson's rather sombre acceptance of the Liberal leadership. "You can't do that again. You have to sound like the coach at half-time talking to a grand final team. You've got to toughen up."

Nelson has been charged by the party with rebuilding the shattered Liberals, taking the leadership after John Howard's humiliating defeat on Saturday and Peter Costello's refusal, one day later, to step into the role. But less than 24 hours into his leadership victory, which split the party in a tight vote, 45 to Nelson and 42 to Turnbull, the post-ballot clash between the contenders was the talk of Liberal circles....

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