POLITICS

Andrew Bolt And Other Conservatives Are Savaging Malcolm Turnbull

The knives are out for the PM.

05/07/2016 10:42 AM AEST | Updated July 15, 2016 12:56
Fairfax Media
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is under fire from all sides.

As it became clear on Saturday night that the Coalition was not going to claim outright victory, firebrand conservative commentator Andrew Bolt was already feverishly bashing away at his keyboard, launching missiles at the Prime Minister.

"Malcolm Turnbull - you are finished," Bolt wrote on his News Corp blog at 10.07pm. It was not long after most election experts predicted that we would be facing a hung parliament. Bolt claimed Turnbull had "treated the Liberal base like dirt," "repeatedly [humiliated] Abbott," turned "almost everything... to ruin" and that his campaign had been a "disaster", before demanding the PM resign.

In the days since, Bolt has written more than a dozen further blog posts attacking Turnbull, including claims that the PM was "pathetic" and the election result "leaves him destroyed", that it was a "stupid" decision to make Turnbull the Liberal leader, that he is "not just broken politically but psychologically", "led the Liberals to humiliation", that Turnbull is "politically incompetent" and "the Liberals' Julia Gillard".

Bolt is one of former PM Tony Abbott's most public supporters, and one of Turnbull's most strident critics, so it was perhaps not surprising that he had the knives out for the under-threat leader. But in the days since the election, the conservative wing of the Liberal Party and conservative commentators have been calling for blood, and Turnbull himself is in their sights.

Multiple media outlets are reporting claims from unnamed conservative MPs who are keeping open the option of booting Turnbull at the first opportunity, after a campaign that saw the Coalition slip from almost certain victory to a precarious hung parliament. Other reports claim that Turnbull is being closely watched by his own party to ensure that he doesn't make a deal to form government by offering lucrative terms to independent MPs.

While most of the reports cite anonymous sources, and most Coalition MPs have publicly backed the Prime Minister, conservative senator Cory Bernardi appeared on Sky News on Monday to launch some thinly veiled criticisms of the way the campaign was run. He claimed the Coalition had made the same "mistakes" as the Labor Party during the tumultuous Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, and that the Coalition had focused too much on "fringe issues" during the election.

Bernardi also took aim at Liberal pollster Mark Textor on election night, saying "conservatives actually do matter", and also on radio on Monday he said the PM and his team "need to be held to account" and that Turnbull "should be asking himself if he has done the Liberal Party a service or a disservice".

Elsewhere on Sky News, the knives were out. Former Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop said: "I weep, I cry for the country" because of the manner of the campaign and the government's current style. But some of the more stinging criticisms came from Abbott's former chief of staff Peta Credlin, who -- in an interview with Bolt himself -- claimed that Turnbull was "the man who broke the Liberal Party's heart".

"That wonderful victory that they had in September 2013 where they had the faith and trust of the Australian people behind them has been squandered in a term of infighting."

Credlin also took aim at some of Turnbull's close allies, including Longman MP Wyatt Roy, who lost their seats or suffered big swings against them at this election. She claimed their close association with Turnbull and the coup against Abbott was a decisive factor in their results, and said she wasn't finished lobbing bombs at the party.

"Wyatt Roy, Peter Hendy, that collective brains-trust that sat there and undid Tony Abbott, I don't think have been giving the prime minister great advice," Credlin said.

"If they think that I've tried to settle scores, well they ain't seen anything yet."

Despite the heat on him, Turnbull tried to look relaxed on Tuesday morning, just hours before we are likely to know the result of the election.

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