Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop has craftily dodged admitting whether or not she has ambitions to one day be prime minister, after a poll found voters favoured her as Liberal leader over Malcolm Turnbull.
When pressed over the Labor Party-commissioned poll, in which voters described her as an “intelligent” and “strong” leader, Ms Bishop twice avoided answering what plans she might have in climbing up the Liberal Party ranks.
When asked by ABC Insiders host Barrie Cassidy if she harboured ambitions to be leader one day, she replied: “I have stood for election as a deputy leader of the party and our party has elected me on a number of occasions and so I will continue as deputy as long as my party elects me as deputy.
“I’m committed to working with Malcolm Turnbull and I agree absolutely with Barnaby Joyce is the leader of our party and will lead us to the next election and I look forward to working with him as the deputy leader of the Liberal Party.”
Ms Bishop dismissed the poll as “mischief making” by Labor.
The poll, convened by UMR Research, found Ms Bishop’s personality traits were perceived as more appealing – “talented”, “smart” and “good” – than Mr Turnbull who was most commonly described as “arrogant” and “smug”.
Its findings were consistent with a 2016 Roy Morgan survey which showed Ms Bishop as preferred Coalition leader over Mr Turnbull – 34 per cent to 25 per cent.
Meanwhile, Liberal Party president Nick Greiner, the former NSW premier, has presented the party with an ultimatum: unite or lose the next election.
“If it isn’t resolved, if we’re not able to present a compelling, unified face to the Australian public, we won’t win the election in two years’ time,” Mr Greiner told Sky News on Sunday.
“I think it is as simple and as stark as that and everyone involved knows that.”
Mr Greiner said he would meet with both Mr Turnbull and his predecessor Tony Abbott to encourage them to resolve their differences.
Professor Rodney Tiffen, author of Disposable Leaders, told The New Daily that disunity is “usually a precursor to defeat”.
“Of the 73 successful leadership challenges since 1970, only 16 have occurred while the party has been in government. Of those, [Paul] Keating and Turnbull have been the only ones to keep a majority at the next election – and only just,” he said.
“It’s usually a precursor of defeat. It is a very public admission the government is not on track or is failing.”
Professor Tiffen said Ms Bishop has been dubbed by some as the “Lady Macbeth” of Parliament – the Shakespearian character who goaded her husband to kill the Scottish king – following her part in the ousting of Mr Abbott.
But he said it was unlikely she would ever replace Mr Turnbull as party leader, let alone become prime minister.
“She has been relatively isolated in her portfolio of foreign affairs and failed badly as shadow treasurer and had to be moved,” he said.
“But they [politicians] will never say never.”
Dr Nicholas Dyrenfurth, director of the Labor-aligned John Curtin Research Centre, said the Liberal leadership instability would be “punished” by voters.
“The letdown that has been Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership has no doubt got the more ambitious types in his party salivating,” he told The New Daily.
“As Julie Bishop’s refusal of a leadership challenge shows.”