The challenge is coming
The Melbourne newspaper most receptive to Michael O’Brien’s leadership, The Age, has published a story about rumblings resurfacing regarding the State Liberal leadership.
The story identified two groups within the State Parliamentary team opposing Michael O’Brien.
The story also identified that Federal MPs were supportive of replacing Michael O’Brien and are keen to encourage State Liberal MPs to act.
Comments around the Party and from the public agree that Michael O’Brien must go.
Adam. “Low energy Michael.”
Alan. “This is hilarious. A large number of Victorian voters are desperately looking for an alternative to the State Labor government, but there is NO way they will vote for the invisible Mr O’Brien … Is that really the best the liberal party can offer.”
Alsance. “O’Brien has to go as he has put nothing constructive forward, ever, just petty criticisms (and admittedly there has been plenty to criticize) and barking.”
Chris. “I wouldn’t really say they are closing the gap, they have a huge issue with the leader and they need to address it. Either O’Brien needs some serious leadership training or he needs to go.”
David. “Sir Robert Menzies … would be appalled to see what has become of the party he has created.”
Jaius. “We are now prepared to make comments against O’Brien without the cloak of anonymity.”
Mo. “Yes, please. O’Brien is useless. He has squandered countless opportunities to step up and bring Liberal closer to State rule. There are many more forward thinking, bolder Libs that should be heading this State – certainly not Michael O’Brien.”
Nigel. “O’Brien is not winning hearts and minds.”
Pat. “O’Brien will lead us to an election wipe out.”
William. “When I saw that four month old photo of him in that oversized shirt blowing in the wind walking his overly brushed dogs, I knew it was over.”
There is a view being promoted by a few O’Brien diehards that there are no strong contenders to replace him. Michael O’Brien’s supporters in the Party room, as well as Ian Quick’s faction within the Liberal Party structure, are ensuring that the rift between the Matthew Guy group of MPs and the Brad Battin group of MPs continues.
Some commentators might suggest that either a third candidate needs to be found or some compromises need to be made. But the mandate is clear: nearly everybody wants to see Michael O’Brien go.
There is only a short list of those MPs and others across the Party who do not want to see Michael O’Brien go. This list includes Michael O’Brien himself, Georgie Crozier, Bruce Atkinson, Ed O’Donohue, Bernie Finn, Cindy McLeish, Wendy Lovell, David Morris, Ian Quick, Frank Greenstein, Robert Clark, Greg Mirabella, Denis Napthine, Paris Room-Batters, Brett Hogan, Amanda Millar, Jenny Mulholland, Robyn Heade, Sarah Kulkens, Mike Horner, Holly Byrne, Ben Zerbe, Sali Miftari, David Solly, Owen Guest, John Renyard, Peter Angelico, David Everist, Vicki Grove, Michael Pountney, Steve Holland, Matt Makin, Cathy Finn, Inga Peulich and a handful of others.
Considering the many who are now dropping away from supporting Robert Clark and Michael O’Brien, this opens up a lot of possibilities. Members feel that both Guy and Battin have things going for them. Speculations have arisen. Could a partnership between a Brad Battin and Matthew Guy team work? Could Tim Smith or James Newbury serve as deputy to Battin? Could Richard Riordan serve as a deputy to a newly reformed and reinvigorated Matthew Guy?
Could Michael O’Brien make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of everyone and step down?
Party members and Victorians urgently need a resolution and a firm answer. The Party needs leadership. The State of Victoria needs Liberal government.
One Victorian federal minister rightly said, “If this is what Michael will be like during an election, we have a huge problem.”
At the moment, Michael O’Brien is desperately clinging to the spin that he could be a better version of Daniel Andrews. For months during the first 2020 lockdown party members were venting on social media how bad Andrews was. Michael O’Brien said nothing in the media and nothing to Party members. When he finally said something after many months, it was that he could have managed hotel quarantine better than Andrews. No wonder Liberal members have long turned against O’Brien.
Many Liberals have also been angered by the Opposition Leader’s swipe at Upper House MP Beverley McArthur, saying she was unworthy of a frontbench position, which was clearly an inappropriate attack. It was also hypocritical seeing that O’Brien has never reprimanded backbencher Bernie Finn for making many contentious remarks in public.
At this time, there are at least two Battin supporting MPs who would be open to considering Matthew Guy for the leadership, and at least two O’Brien supporting MPs who likewise are open to switching support.
In the 2018 State election Guy was undermined by Ian Quick and Michael O’Brien, who deliberately sabotaged the i360 data. There were also contentions between Ian Quick’s supporters and then State President Michael Kroger. Further muddying the waters, Karina Okotel was running a vicious slander campaign against Guy among conservative Party members. Things have moved on, and enough Party members believe that Matthew Guy should be given another chance and make the Howardesque Lazarus comeback.
Guy has changed. He is a humbled man, a man who is far greater in stature than his former self. Enough Party members are willing to forgive and forget the past mistakes. With Daniel Andrews now the most hated villain in Australian politics, the new Matthew Guy is being called to service.