Craig Kelly’s political career saved with Liberal Party officials set to endorse incumbent candidates
The political career of an outspoken Liberal Party backbencher appears secured, with New South Wales party officials set to override the usual preselection process and endorse all sitting federal MPs.
The ABC understands the NSW state executive will intervene in the preselection for all undecided seats where an incumbent was facing a challenge – something Prime Minister Scott Morrison has requested.
This would ensure conservative Liberal MP Craig Kelly would not face a preselection battle, which he was widely expected to lose.
It comes after an extraordinary intervention from the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who publicly attacked the plan.
Mr Turnbull infuriated his own backers by intervening in a Liberal Party preselection stoush and attempting to torpedo Scott Morrison’s solution.
Mr Kelly had threatened to quit the party if he lost preselection.
MPs first learned of the move on Sunday, and those from the moderate faction immediately tried to shut it down, believing it was a “smoke-screen” to protect Mr Kelly – an ally of former prime minister Tony Abbott.
While they worked behind the scenes, Mr Turnbull got wind of the plan, picked up his phone and wrote a series of tweets slamming the proposed move.
As one MP put it, the contribution was “distinctly unhelpful” and almost guaranteed Mr Morrison’s plan to endorse all members would succeed.
Another MP accused Mr Turnbull of outright hypocrisy given he saved Mr Kelly, Angus Taylor and Concetta Fierravante-Wells from preselection challenges in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
“He’s saying ‘don’t do what I did three years ago’,” one Liberal said.
“There’s a lot of anger at Malcolm over the way he’s handled this.”
More to come.