Loveless MP gathering
It was a damp and dark evening in the historic holiday town of Queenscliff. The few tourists had long disappeared from the streets, as the Victorian Liberal MPs gathered in the comfort of the Victorian-style but tastefully modern Vue Grand Hotel.
MPs kept to their little groupings around the dining room. Local wines were on offer. Maybe one MP had too much chardonnay, his voice was droning. Others looking knowingly across the room assessing each other. Was Rowswell looking at Vallence? Why was Atkinson fidgeting? Where was Wells?
It almost felt like a scene from a 1970s spy novel. One group watched another, and others watched them. This was supposed to be some sort of love-in, but instead the elite Party gathering was more like a cold war drama. The setting suited it too. The old hotel, the elegant dining room and the holiday atmosphere.
Yet suspicion blanketed everything like the seaside air. Questions were being muttered about the redistribution of seats. What the hell was the leader up to? Did they have a plan for the next election? Who was this Shandra Cohen? Were any policies ready?
For years local government has been a favourite topic. Nothing ever has come of it. Queenscliffe Borough was still the anomaly that survived from the glory days of Kennett. Now MPs almost whimpered around the hotel. Staley had heavy bags under her eyes. Riordan had given in to the inevitable. Even the usually buoyant Southwick moved his adam’s apple up and down. Morris was fastidious about his mask wearing, but his eyes were gloomy.
There were no answers here. Hodgett asked some incoherent question. Little discussions took place on the fringes. But nothing was going to happen here. Not while the aging Crozier watched the room like a bird of prey. Negotiations were in a sensitive place. At this time Battin and Tim Smith were careful not to be seen talking together.
“Allsop should run for a seat,” one MP commented quietly.
“What’s this nonsense about the Leader wanting quotas but saying they were aspirational guidelines?” asked another.
“State Council now in 2022,” said another.
Party members would be aghast if they were sitting in the hotel’s auditorium to hear Michael O’Brien’s assurances to fellow MPs that there was a plan. What plan? Everything he did invited a challenge. Everything he said was so unsatisfactory. There was no plan. The plan is that there is no plan. His map ahead pretty much was to hope for the best. He seemed just thankful he didn’t slip on the stairs when he went to his hotel suite. Bad polling numbers and at last even The Age running an editorial that Matthew Guy would be better. What dream could they sell?