As one pores over the plethora of MSM articles written by a number of political editors since the Bronwyn Bishop resignation, one gets the feeling that Tony Abbott might be facing another leadership spill motion before Christmas.
It would be fair to say that his performance since his ‘near death experience’ in February has been less than stellar, no doubt exacerbated by the experience itself and the realisation that he is being watched very closely.
The Bronwyn Bishop issue has been a public relations disaster for the government and Abbott in particular. It has highlighted once again deficiencies in his judgement and that since the February spill motion there has been no discernible improvement in his performance.
But overriding all of that is the consistent negative polling, a fact no Liberal party member is ignoring, one that clearly shows that both Abbott and his government are looking very shaky.
The Liberal Party has a history of showing no mercy to leaders they view as poor performers or who consistently show they are unable to lead in the polls. Right now, we can be in no doubt that Abbott is currently viewed as a poor performer.
So the question arises as to how long the parliamentary team will give him to turn the corner. Thirty nine of them were prepared to tip him out in February.
It would only take another eleven or twelve to seal the deal. That spill motion in February did not have the support of the cabinet and no alternative leadership candidate was prepared to raise his/her hand.
We can surmise that opinions have changed since then.
With an election little more than twelve months away, time is not on their side. Many now will be taking a keener than normal interest in their own seats, particularly those who came into the parliament for the first time in 2013.
There will be no fat superannuation payout for them. They will be looking to the brains trust deep inside the bowels of the party machine and asking what can be done to win back dis-affected voters.
It may be that the only answer is to find a new leader.
The recent announcement concerning future shipbuilding contracts for the Defence Department might give us a clue. It was, on the face of it, a poorly thought through gesture toward the good people of Adelaide who hold the fate of Christopher Pyne’s political career in their hands.
The very thought that such a high profile government member could lose his seat must send a shudder through Liberal party corridors. They would quite rightly be wondering if he were to lose his seat, how many others would be in the same boat.
But the promise of new contracts being let to the Adelaide shipbuilding yards will only revive memories of the broken 2013 election promise to build submarines there. South Australians are not that naïve.
Self-preservation in any setting is a strong motivator and when the clock is ticking, watch out. Anyone who thinks this is pure speculation should watch this interview with political editor Peter Hartcher at the Sydney Morning Herald.
Hartcher confirms talk within the party about Abbott’s future as leader, about the possibility of an election later this year and that even without an alternative candidate, “they are contemplating getting rid of him anyway.”
One can only guess what might be the number of late night phone calls by leadership contenders assessing their chances.