Failed leadership contender Julie Bishop has opened fire on her fellow Liberals, saying she was the party’s best hope of beating Labor at the looming federal election.
And the former foreign minister reserved a special dose of venom for Christopher Pyne, who she singled out for playing a key role in scuttling her leadership ambitions.
In an interview with WA’s The Sunday Times, Ms Bishop said she believed she had the support of at least 28 colleagues, more than Scott Morrison, before going into the party room last August after the coup that ousted Malcolm Turnbull.
Instead she was stunned to learn she had attracted only 11 votes and was knocked out of contention in the first round of ballots.
Mr Morrison went on to snatch the Liberal crown by defeating Peter Dutton 45 votes to 40.
“I am now told that there was a view, led by Christopher Pyne and others, that even though I would have 28 votes – which was many more than Scott Morrison – it wouldn’t be enough to beat Peter Dutton.
“So, they wanted to make sure that happened,” she told the paper, adding that she could have turned the tables on her male rivals if she had known more about the internal forces working against her.
“If I had known that was what their thinking was, I could have dissuaded them of it.
“I would have pointed out that the question was: ‘Who could beat Bill Shorten?’
“And I was confident that I could (beat Shorten).”
Mrs Bishop’s candour will focus even more attention on the bitter divisions between Liberal factions as Mr Morrison struggles to persuade voters the Coalition is a united front.
That effort has been further handicapped by the spate of high-profile resignations which has seen some of the party’s leading lights announce they will be abandoning ship when the current parliament rises.
Ms Bishop said her rejection despite an extended stint as deputy leader under four different prime ministers was a huge gain for Labor.
“That was Labor’s thought too,” she said, reflecting on her chances of leading her party to victory at the polls.
“I felt confident [of winning the leadership] after the assurances I had received over the phone.”
However, she emphasised she wasn’t bitter over the outcome and was looking forward to the next chapter of her life.
“I always aimed to be foreign minister and I achieved that,” she said.
“I am absolutely leaving on a high note.”