Controversy has erupted within the Liberal Party over a new theory floated by former cabinet minister Christopher Pyne about the machinations surrounding Malcolm Turnbull’s toppling as prime minister in 2018.
Mr Pyne, who retired from politics at the May 2019 federal election, has just released his memoirs in which he spends some time analysing the behind-the-scenes manoeuvres in the lead-up to the August 2018 party room meetings that saw Malcolm Turnbull replaced by Scott Morrison.
In his book, The Insider (main picture), Pyne reveals a new line of thinking on the views of Liberal Party MPs during the leadership crisis and explains why supposedly popular former foreign minister Julie Bishop lost her chance to lead her party and the nation.
Bishop, a long-serving WA Liberal MP at the time of the change of PM, had considered herself as a likely successor to Turnbull.
“As a couple of the very few moderates left in the Liberal Party, Bishop and I shared a view that someone on the far right of the party like Peter Dutton should not become party leader and therefore prime minister,” Pyne writes in his memoir.
“I did all I could to promote Bishop to her fellow MPs but I found great resistance, even outright dislike and distrust.
“There were many Liberal MPs who told me straight out they would never vote for her for leader or for any other position in the leadership team.
“This shocked me greatly. But I pieced together the reasons behind this deep distrust and dislike only after the series of leadership ballots that saw Turnbull effectively abdicate, Dutton drop by the wayside, and Morrison come through the middle to win the prize.
“My soundings after the event showed that most people in the Liberal Party room had Julie Bishop confused with Bronwyn Bishop.
“Sadly for Julie, that confusion — even though Bronnie was no longer in the Parliament — sealed her fate.”
He admits that he and Bishop had temporarily fallen out over the leadership battle, with her partly blaming him for her failed leadership bid.
“I never revealed the real reason to Julie for the failure of her leadership tilt, until now.
“I hope she understands and that we can now resume our friendship,” Pyne writes.