Is Julie Bishop the ultimate Stepford Deputy?
She’s nothing if not loyal to the incumbent. Julie Bishop has just stood at the podium in the Liberal party room, just at the left shoulder of her third leader in two years. And she hasn’t just done with a straight face, she’s positively nailed it.
First she declared her absolutely loyalty to Brendan Nelson. When he was knocked off by Malcolm Turnbull Ms Bishop was again smoothly articulate in her declarations of support - and today, there she was again as Tony Abbott made his pitch for the next election. Deputies aren’t usually so resilient.
But Ms Bishop says she’s redefined the role of deputy leader of the Liberal Party, saying it’s not her job to angle for he boss’s downfall.
No plotting and profile-raising for the Member for Curtin.
She said of Mr Abbott today: “He is a personality, a character, a fighter, and I’m honoured to be able to serve as his deputy. As Tony said, we will have a contest at the next election whenever that may be.”
Asked how she’d survived three bitter leadership ballots unscathed she said she’d taken the view after the 2007 election that the days of the deputy leader being a destabilising force in the party should be over.
It was a clear reference to the years of damaging tensions between John Howard and Peter Costello, who’s simmering non-tussle for the top job ended in such disaster for the Liberal Party in 2007.
Instead, Ms Bishop said, she wanted to be a deputy who was loyal to whomever the party room elected, and today that was Tony Abbott. It’s certainly a novel approach, but it effectively rules her out of rising any further up the political tree.
As long as the Liberal and National Parties are in coalition, the deputy of the Liberals would be highly unlikely to become Deputy Prime Minister in the event of them winning an election. That job goes to the leader of the Nats.
So here we have a politician who says she’s happy with her lot in life - standing by her man, which ever man it happens to be at the time.
Maybe she’s exactly what the Liberal Party needs. Or maybe she’s a bad luck charm. Losing one leader is unlucky, losing two is downright careless. If she loses Mr Abbott, her loyalty might start to be considered a liability.
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