Three years after leading the party to a thrashing election defeat, Matthew Guy has been brought back as Opposition Leader, by the Victorian parliamentary Liberal Party.
True, Michael O’Brien was not cutting through. True, it is a difficult political terrain with covid pandemic, lockdowns, fear of the unknown and Victorians hoping against hope for some social normalcy in the near future.
Michael O’Brien, it has been reported, did not contest when the spill motion was called.
Matthew Guy was elected unopposed. Good, Michael has saved his good fortunes for another day.
Good move for – Matthew Guy as the leader, the Liberal Party and Michael himself, if he wants to stick around beyond next election. Michael had warded off the challenge in March and in the ensuing five months, failed to come up with a message to cut across the political and pandemic fog.
With the 2022 election only a year away the Liberal Party head honchos and his parliamentary colleagues are worried.
Worried perhaps of not losing it, but of losing it worse than 2018. And political pundits would agree Matthew Guy is likely to be heard by more Victorians. Whether they like and embrace his message is a different ballgame altogether.
That is based on two broader points: First, the size of loss in 2018 made it almost inevitable that the 2022 election would be very hard for the party to win, although not numerically not impossible. Second, in a crisis situation, there is incumbency advantage to the party in power.
That is precisely what Matthew Guy would have had in his head when he said he wanted to remind Victorians that “Victoria was not a one-party state” and Victorians were “aching for the next election to be a contest”.
For the politically savvy, the difference in approach with the change of leader was highlighted when Matthew Guy pitched the need to prosecute a nuanced plan out of lockdown and seize on some of the inconsistencies within the rules, as Richard Willingham of the ABC noted.
“O’Brien tried to articulate a plan but failed to cut through, and he failed to bring his party room with him.
“Much of this change is about the sales pitch and internal squabbles.
“So, can the returned Matthew Guy change the game for the Liberals?”
Matthew Guy’s (over) confident and at-times angry media persona has been noted. But what good is a leader without confidence?
A touch of overconfidence added only makes it a whole lot better.
And anger, rightly directed in public is an asset like no other.
Remember the visual of former Prime Minister John Howard thumping the lectern while shouting out “…we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come..?
It will be up Matthew Guy to use these assets astutely and not to overkill them in order to “rediscover” himself as a different person.
Given what looks to be an election (2022) already won by Labor, a lot needs to happen for the Opposition to have the fortunes reversed. The critical factor next year will be the recovery of Victorian economy and control over covid numbers in the lead up to the period going into the caretaker mode.
For Matthew Guy to make his mark, in addition to all the skillset that he brings to the game, colossal problems in the recovery area caused by errors of judgement on the government’s part and absolutely controlled and low numbers of covid will help.
There is one more element to all this – his own party and colleagues’ loyalty and commitment to be fully behind Matthew Guy.
As far the media landscape in Victoria, with Matthew Guy on the scene, we should see more colour and vibrancy.
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