Bishop gambit: Will ‘the cockroach’ survive again?
Update 7.30pm: Andrew Robb has now said he will not challenge Julie Bishop for the deputy leader’s position tomorrow. More here.
The Australian is reporting that Julie Bishop’s position as deputy leader of the Liberal Party may be under threat. Andrew Robb has confirmed this afternoon he has been approached by colleagues urging him to challenge her at tomorrow’s partyroom meeting.
But is this wise? Putting aside the obvious observations about how Julia Gillard came to lead the Labor party, the political reality now is she has been returned to office. With all the machismo that already surrounds Tony Abbott’s leadership style, installing another tough guy like Robb as his second-in-command as they take the fight to the Prime Minister is not without its risks.
Having survived as deputy leader through the ousting of Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull, and continuing in the role with Tony Abbott, Bishop has earned a disparaging nickname among some Liberal MPs. She’s known as “the cockroach” because she’d survive anything.
During last year’s Liberal leadership spill it was reported she had a blazing row with Malcolm Turnbull because she had publicly pledged her support - but then he told colleagues he had glimpsed Bishop writing Abbott’s name on the ballot paper during the vote. (The full story is here.)
Bishop is regarded by many to have underperformed in her role has shadow foreign affairs minister. In May Labor claimed she was unfit to serve in the portfolio after saying she believed Australian intelligence agents used fake passports but later retracted the statement.
Removing her from the post of deputy would pave the way for a significant reorganisation of the Coalition front bench and possible promotions for people like the Marise Pyne and the formidable Sophie Mirabella.
And it might also allow for a smoother return of Malcolm Turnbull to the shadow cabinet, something which Tony Abbott has said he plans to effect. The elevation of Robb and a demotion of Bishop could put the finance and foreign affairs portfolios in play, and Turnbull would be in the running for both.
There will be arguments about meritocracy and the irrelevance of gender balance but I suspect for many casual observers it mightn’t be a great look to be taking out your most senior female frontbencher when Julia Gillard has just led the Labor Party back into power.
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