News National Malcolm Turnbull looks to keep the prize seat of Wentworth in the family
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Malcolm Turnbull looks to keep the prize seat of Wentworth in the family

Malcolm Turnbull and James Brown
Malcolm Turnbull's political future is becoming increasingly untenable, but he has a successor in mind. Photo: AAP
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With the latest dismal Newspoll, Malcolm Turnbull is now facing almost certain political death at the hands of either his own party or those of the electorate.

The question has now become not just who will take over the Liberal leadership, but who will take Mr Turnbull’s prized seat of Wentworth.

The PM’s son-in-law James Brown, a former army officer who has served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands, is reportedly being groomed for preselection.

And the question is now one of when, not if, the seat of Wentworth becomes vacant.

Wentworth is the most glittering prize the Liberal Party has to offer. If Mr Brown inherits the seat, it will ensure that the inner-eastern Sydney seat remains within the orbit of the Turnbull family.

Wentworth is the wealthiest electorate in Australia, encompassing the elite suburbs of Vaucluse, Watsons Bay, Woollahra, Bellevue Hill and the Prime Minister’s own home turf of Point Piper. It has never been held by the ALP.

While his critics see Mr Brown as ambitious, ruthless and out of touch with ordinary Australians – characteristics they also attribute to Mr Turnbull – others see a different man.

Moves by Mr Brown to cement his position for a tilt at Wentworth include taking the presidency of the Paddington branch of the Liberal Party in 2015. He rolled the sitting president, Peter Cavanagh, who told The New Daily he was aware of rumours Mr Brown is aiming to take the seat.

Although there was bad blood at the time, Mr Cavanagh insists there is now no ill will. “He is very competent,” he said. “I wish him well.”

Other manoeuvres by Mr Brown to boost his public image have included penning the book Anzac’s Long Shadow: The Cost of Our National Obsession and the more recent Quarterly Essay, Firing Line: Australia’s Path to War.

Both works place him on the opposite side of the Liberal Party to Tony Abbott, whose military interventions he has dismissed as a “chaotic” failure to understand Australia’s military.

Still other moves shoring up Mr Brown’s credibility for preselection including positioning himself to become the head of the NSW state branch of the RSL, which has been riven with scandal and accusations of financial mismanagement.

He paints himself as a clean skin who wishes to restore the RSL as “a force for good for veterans”.

Mr Brown (R) is married to Mr Turnbull's daughter Daisy. Photo: Facebook
James Brown (L) is married to Malcolm Turnbull’s daughter Daisy. Photo: Facebook

Dr Norman Abjorensen, a leading political commentator whose many books include Australia: The State of Democracy, told The New Daily that, save for a miracle, Mr Turnbull was doomed. It was natural for him to be looking at his legacy and his successor.

“Turnbull is a very typical Wentworth product,” Dr Abjorensen said.

“It [Wentworth] is very strongly liberal, intellectual, Jewish. It has the highest concentration of gay people in the country. There is not much ground for social conservatism.”

Turnbull election poster
Mr Turnbull would prefer a successor like himself for the seat of Wentworth. Photo: Getty

Dr Abjorensen said a socially liberal, highly educated local candidate was needed to represent the seat.

“James Brown ticks all the boxes. And he has the added asset of being able to take on the Right by being a former military officer. He has crossover appeal,” he said.

“Malcolm Turnbull would prefer a successor like himself. He would want to keep a social liberal legacy going, not for his own sake, but for what he sees as the prevailing values in Wentworth he sought to represent.”

The New Daily’s repeated attempts to contact Mr Brown were not returned.

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