Nationals MP David Gillespie summed it up well yesterday when he described the arrival of the 30th negative Newspoll as akin to the Y2K bug.
Anyone who remembers the clock moving past midnight on DecemberÂ 31 1999 will recall the great anticlimax which followed when the worldÂ failed to crash.
Turnbull was never going to crash yesterday given it had been forecast for months that the government’s problems were too well entrenched for the polls to reverseÂ before the dreaded number 30 came around.
But the occasion did provide a valuable stocktakeÂ exercise for the Coalition.
For starters, Tony “it’s not about me” Abbott has surely blown whatever chance he hadÂ of ever leading the Liberal Party again.
Even for a governmentÂ currentlyÂ stretching the boundaries of its own free-market credentials with its badgering of Liddell’s owner AGL Energy, Abbott’s call was regarded widely throughout the Liberal Party as lunacy.
Then again, Abbott did advocate last year using defence powers usually available only in war time to have theÂ military seize the asset.
The otherÂ development from Monday’s navel gazing was Peter Dutton and Julie Bishop, the only two frontbenchers apart from Turnbull and Chris Pyne to serve as ministers in the Howard government, emerging asÂ clear contenders should Turnbull falter. Not to be left out, Scott Morrison said he would also nominate.
Both Newspoll and the Fairfax/Ipsos poll show Bishop is the only Liberal who rivals Turnbull as preferred leader. After her comes daylight, followed by Abbott, followed by daylight and then Dutton, Morrison and an asterisk.
A stintÂ as Immigration Minister is a handy way to become about as popular as boilsÂ and Dutton, following Morrison,Â is the latest to experience such joys.
But DuttonÂ is alsoÂ alive to it and his most tellingÂ comments yesterday were to assure thatÂ unpopularity was not a impediment to leadership.
“You don’t have to be liked in politics. I’ve never seen politics as a Big Brother episode or as a reality TV show,” he said.
“You need to make tough decisions and people respect you in the end I think for sticking by your beliefs and sticking by your convictions.”
He’s right. ItÂ was a lesson learned from watching Howard who earned the respect of his enemies.
More likely, Dutton, who Peter Costello once tippedÂ as a future leader, is preparing to take over in Opposition, should the Coalition lose. But if Turnbull falls before that, he’ll put his hand up for sure.