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Nationals leader admits being white-anted but claims majority support

Politics

National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack claims he has the “absolute” support of the Nationals partyroom, but also concedes “one or two” colleagues are actively working to bring him down.

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McCormack is under immense pressure amid speculation supporters of Barnaby Joyce could try to topple him within days.

He will not be stepping down.

“The fact is I have the majority support in the National Party,” McCormack told reporters today.

“Not one National Party member has come to me and said they’re dissatisfied with anything.”

McCormack said he does not expect a challenge to his leadership, claiming several colleagues have called and texted him in the past 24 hours to praise the job he is doing.

But he acknowledged “one or two” Nationals colleagues were briefing the media against him.

His political allies are bracing for a move on his leadership as soon as Monday.

Queensland Nationals MP Michelle Landry urged her colleagues to calm down, insisting no one was interested in switching leaders right now.

“I’m sure at some stage in his career Barnaby will be leader again,” she told Sky News.

It has been just two months since the Liberal leadership crisis, and the National Party has long presented itself to voters as the political party of internal stability.

A federal election is due by May and the crucial Wentworth by-election is on Saturday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison claims he is not distracted by the Nationals leadership chatter.

“You guys can focus on the politics all you like, I’m focused on what the Australian people are focused on,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

“Politics others can go and bang on about. I’m not interested in that. I’m not distracted by it.”

McCormack has led the federal party since February when Joyce resigned after having an affair with a former staffer, who gave birth to their child earlier this year. Joyce was also the subject of a sexual harassment allegation, with an internal party investigation unable to make a finding due to “insufficient evidence”.

Joyce has confirmed he wants to be Nationals leader again, but says he’s not actively pursuing it.

“I have not made one call to one colleague asking for a vote,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

“There’s been no secret meetings in my room, there’s no WhatsApp group, there’s no dinner conversations.”

Joyce has backers in Queensland who are actively pushing for him to take over the leadership.

McCormack is under pressure from some Nationals who describe the deputy prime minister as “ineffective” and believe he hasn’t stood up to the Liberal party.

But he still has the support of a core group of Nationals MPs including Darren Chester, David Littleproud and Andrew Broad.

– with AAP

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