Is this the next Leader of the Liberal Party?
Update 10:55am: Shadow Cabinet signed off this morning on Malcolm Turnbull’s deal with the Government over the CPRS, and it is now being debated by the Coalition Party Room.
No. But he’s the Right Faction’s stalking horse should Malcolm Turnbull falter in his handling of the CPRS - which in the eyes of the more skeptical and conservative Libs he is already doing. And if there is a blow-up in the Party Room today, Kevin Andrews is expected to run for the leadership.
In what is looming as a chaotic and unpredictable day, the Right Faction is positioning itself to inflict a potentially mortal wound on Turnbull by moving a spill in protest at his excessive concessions over the carbon pollution reduction scheme.
Kevin Andrews is not the Right’s preferred candidate - but he is the one who has volunteered to go over the top on behalf of the party’s conservatives. He told SkyNews ominously yesterday that “At the moment we have a leader but I am a loyal servant of the party and I will do any job that I am asked to do,” Mr Andrews told Sky News.
Andrews is not expected to get the numbers.
He does not have the total support of the Right, which would rather see Tony Abbott emerge as leader.
But Andrews’ candidature could do two things. In isolation, it would damage Turnbull by drawing public attention to the level of dissatisfaction within the party, and set Tony Abbott up for a run in the near future. But it could also have the immediate effect of triggering a wave of other leadership nominations and counter-nominations inside today’s Party Room meeting with an unpredictable Melbourne Cup field slugging it out.
Andrews is a gentle sort of a bloke, a devout Christian and social conservative, and is well-liked within the party. But he has many strong critics of his past ministerial performance - most notably as Workplace Relations Minister when he struggled to sell the apparent benefits of Workchoices and was punted for Joe Hockey, or as Immigration Minister after Philip Ruddock when he led the bungled crusade against the (wrongly) accused terrorist Dr Haneef.
But today isn’t about his vision for the future or his leadership talents. It’s about clobbering Malcolm Turnbull. And as a loyal member of the Right, Andrews is prepared to go in as the spear-carrier for his faction today as Turnbull limps towards the end of this final sitting week for 2009.
- Kevin Andrews has submitted several pieces for The Punch over the past few months on climate change, population policy and an interesting personal piece on how his first job was as a race-caller. You can read them here.
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