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Damaged Turnbull runs out of options


Wounded prime ministers tend not to survive.

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Having narrowly won a Liberal leadership ballot against Peter Dutton today, Malcolm Turnbull appears to have three options he can take himself, and one taken for him.

The first is call an early election and hope his bitterly divided party rallies behind him.

In that scenario, given current polls, Labor under Bill Shorten is almost certain to romp home in a landside.

The Liberal Party still has many candidates left to preselect and its finances need a boost to run a respectable campaign.

The second is to continue in the leadership with a freshened-up frontbench, but a disgruntled backbench which includes a former prime minister, an ex-deputy prime minister and a growing gaggle of former ministers.

The internal bleeding will continue and Turnbull will struggle to deal with continued sniping, especially from conservatives who have always distrusted their moderate leader.

The third is resign, in the knowledge that Dutton only needs to convince a handful more Liberal colleagues to end Turnbull’s prime ministership.

Another option lies out of his hands.

If the rumours are to be believed and Dutton’s supporters will try again later in the week, the leadership is likely to be taken from Turnbull.

Dutton then has just under eight months to pull together an election platform – based on the Abbott-style blunt messages of strong economic management, lower immigration levels, “stop the boats” and cheaper power prices – and reunite the party.


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