It looks like Malcolm Turnbull has a major internal battle on his hands with revelations today that a number of leading business figures and supporters of the Liberal party have threatened to withdraw their financial support unless a number of “Howard era” MPs get the boot.
On the basis of anonymity, the leading Sydney business figure says Mr Turnbull and the Liberal party must be prepared to go through with “a full-scale public bloodletting” if those named on the list refused to budge from their seats.
According to The Australian, the list of 14 MPs includes Philip Ruddock, Bronwyn Bishop, Kevin Andrews and Bill Heffernan.
However, other sources suggest the list also includes: Wilson Tuckey, Andrew Laming, Alby Schultz, Joanna Gash, Margaret May, Bruce Scott, Michael Johnson, Alex Somlyay, Judi Moylan and John Forrest.
The list of names is being circulated within the Liberal Party accompanied by a commentary which says in part:
“The emerging issue federally for both the current leader and any other potential leader is team composition.
“And it is an issue. And finance donors from key players expect an upgrade.”
The screed from business says it is Mr Turnbull himself who must drive the renewal process, rather than “the slow moribund party organisational leadership”.
The author makes it clear the hit list was drawn up in consultation with like-minded business figures and says, ominously, that it is not exhaustive.
In response, senior Liberals yesterday described the call for renewal as “justified”, confirming that fundraising for the party had become much more difficult in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Perhaps what they really mean is “in the wake of a catacylsmic election defeat.”
However, in other reports, Mr Turnbull has denied that he has received any such list.
“Nobody sent that list to me,” he said.
“We have a strong team, a mixture of youth and experience, a mixture of people who have been in Parliament for a long time, people that have had long careers in other areas and have been in Parliament for a shorter time.”
It Mr Turnbull hasn’t seen the list, could it be because his name’s on it? An unlikely, but novel idea, given that he could represent a new, more youthful and more moderate persona in comparison to his Howard era counterparts.
Either way, it looks like the Liberal party are in for yet another rollercoaster week of internal bickering played out in the public domain.
The last Newspoll had the Coalition on 42 per cent behind Labor at 58 per cent and Mr Turnbull has sits at just 19 per cent compared to Kevin Rudd’s 67 per cent as preferred prime minister.
I imagine there will be a lot of frantic phone calls going on right now…