Barnaby Will Go but Turnbull Will be the Loser
Barnaby Joyce and Malcolm Turnbull met at Kirribilli House on Saturday in an attempt to re-establish a working relationship.
The official reports were that the discussions were frank and constructive but the backgrounding from the Prime Minister’s Office was that Mr Joyce “still didn’t get it”.
The assumption is that the Deputy Prime Minister should fall on his sword in order to save the Turnbull government.
This was unlikely to happen in a situation where the Prime Minister had told the press on Thursday that the Deputy Prime Minister had made a “shocking error of judgement” in having an affair with a staffer.
The reports are that, while Barnaby Joyce was prepared to cop being admonished by the Prime Minister, he objected to the forcefulness of the PM’s attack.
The official version is that, notwithstanding the fact that Malcolm Turnbull would, under his new version of the code of conduct, dismiss a minister who had a sexual relationship with a staffer, he’s prepared to continue working with Mr Joyce because he can’t dismiss him.
On the other hand Barnaby Joyce is banking on the fact that his party members will follow him through thick and thin, even into opposition, rather than be dictated to by the Liberal Party. He may be delusional.
There are already indications that Michael McCormack is counting the numbers and many Nats backbenchers are not all that keen on following their leader into oblivion.
It’s possible that, after the Newspoll today, the numbers will fall Mr McCormack’s way and Barnaby Joyce will be a backbencher when Parliament resumes next week.
Unfortunately for Malcolm Turnbull, the Newspoll was the 27th in which the Coalition has lagged behind Labor.
He has three to go to reach the benchmark that he set for Tony Abbott, 30 Newspoll losses in a row.
It’s clear that the Prime Minister is hopeless at welding his members into a united force that can focus on defeating Labor.
The government’s communications strategy is also hopeless. T
he public is still waiting for a major statement on economic policy; defence policy seems to be no more than industry policy designed to prop up states that continually attack the federal government; and energy policy seems to be caught in an aimless drift into unaffordability.
The Prime Minister has consistently shown himself to be incapable of real leadership.
The fact that you have the numbers inside the Liberal Party doesn’t amount to national leadership and Malcolm Turnbull’s inability to deal with the Barnaby Joyce problem reveals his lack of authority or convictions.
If he believed that there was a problem he should have dealt with it in December when he first knew about it rather than leave it as a festering sore.
The likely consequence is that his government will lose office at the next election.