Despite Tony Abbott’s win in the party room this morning, the odds of his leadership surviving until the next election are not great.
Almost every previous example of an incumbent leader surviving an internal leadership challenge was only a reprieve, with that leader losing their job before the next election.
In federal politics, one can point to the examples of Bill Hayden in 1982, Bob Hawke in 1991, Simon Crean in 2003 and Julia Gillard in 2012. In all four cases, that leader didn’t last until the next election.
In the case of John Gorton being challenged by Bill McMahon in 1971, the vote was tied and Gorton chose to resign.
The only example I can find of a leader surviving to the next election after winning a leadership challenge is Malcolm Fraser, who defeated Andrew Peacock’s challenge in 1981 and led the party to defeat in 1983.
There may be other examples that are relevant here, at either a federal or state level, but unfortunately it’s hard to find a definitive list of all leadership elections.
Apart from this one point, I thought I’d share a piece I wrote for New Matilda in February 2012, shortly after Kevin Rudd’s failed challenge to Julia Gillard’s leadership.
In particular, I suggested that the solution to revolving-door leadership contests lies in giving power to party members to choose leaders, not restricting this power to members of Parliament.
After Kevin Rudd took power in 2013, he changed Labor rules to give half of the vote in leadership elections to party members, and since the 2013 election we haven’t seen anything close to a leadership challenge to Bill Shorten.