The Liberal Party has no compelling alternative to Turnbull. If it did, he’d be long gone. But it has three aspiring alternatives. The most obvious is the least plausible, Tony Abbott, who, in the Easter spirit of resurrection, this week offered as a political rule that “you’re always better the second time around”. The voters don’t intend to give him the chance and neither do his colleagues.
The most plausible is Julie Bishop. Of the Liberal leadership contenders, she is the only one who could credibly improve the Coalition’s vote and win an election. She is the champion of Liberal moderates and demonstrates her star power every time she visits a colleague’s electorate to campaign for them, which she does tirelessly.
Turnbull had his chance to be a moral force when he first took the prime ministership. But when he abandoned every big cause he’d ever championed during his three decades in the public eye – the republic, climate change and gay marriage – and accepted the Abbott policy settings as a condition of taking the job, he lost every skerrick of moral authority with the people.