Having survived a week of waiting to learn whether she will be re-elected, moderate Canberra Liberals MLA Nicole Lawder is shaping up as a contender for the party’s deputy leadership.
‘What?!’ I hear you asking. ‘Wasn’t it on the RiotACT that we read recently that Giulia Jones should be the Liberals’ deputy?’
Yes, and you can read that piece here, but the terrain has shifted dramatically since then.
While we don’t know yet whether Jeremy Hanson will choose to stay on, or at least attempt to stay on, as the Liberals’ leader following last Saturday’s election loss, we understand that his deputy, Alistair Coe, is actively pushing to be installed as leader at the spill for both positions to be held by convention next week.
I suspect many of his colleagues will want to see Mr Hanson step down to avoid ongoing speculation about the Liberals’ leadership. Given Mr Hanson has anointed Mr Coe as his successor whether now or in the future, the speculation will be rife until a handover occurs or Mr Coe leaves the Assembly.
Why would Mr Coe leave the Assembly, you ask? Why, to run for Zed Seselja’s ACT senate seat, of course. Not that it’s currently vacant nor likely to become so, but that didn’t stop Mr Coe from assisting to orchestrate the ousting of Gary Humphries for Senator Seselja in 2013. I note Senator Seselja has come out publicly to support Mr Coe becoming leader, a circumstance that would insure against a Coe challenge for the senate slot.
My guess is Mr Hanson will succumb to pressures from within the party to quit the leadership but stay on in the Assembly, initially at least. If he does so, Mr Coe will be elected leader. His election should, in my view, be on the agreement that his deputy will be a woman and a moderate, probably Ms Lawder. Not because that’s what Mr Coe wants. He’d likely prefer for fellow conservative Andrew Wall to have his back.
But the numbers in the party room have changed since my Giulia for deputy piece. There are a few more progressives among the elected Liberals post-election, and they will to want to see a moderate in the mix. Surely even the conservatives can see that a leadership team consisting of two blokes who are anti-marriage equality isn’t going to win them many hearts in this city.
The only other returning women MLAs, Giulia Jones and Vicki Dunne, are from the conservative side. If Mr Hanson were staying on and Mr Coe’s position were up for grabs, Mrs Jones would be the pick to make it a male-female, left-right combination. In the event of a Coe coup, Ms Lawder is the only choice at this point. That’s assuming she can be persuaded to run. Down the track, Elizabeth Lee would no doubt be a contender, but not while she remains a rookie MLA.
Mark Parton, another moderate, is sure to want to shake things up in the Assembly, too. It will be fascinating to see how he fits into all of this in coming months.
The moderate MLAs among the elected Liberals will be hoping Mr Hanson stays on in the Assembly, because while he would no doubt be personally pleased to see his Murrumbidgee running mate Peter Hosking come in on a countback as could potentially occur, Mr Hosking is from the conservative side. The numbers in the party room would swing back in their favour if Mr Hosking replaced Mr Hanson in the seat.
Who would you like to see as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Canberra Liberals in the ACT Legislative Assembly?
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