D-DAY LOOMS FOR BARNABY
BARNABY Joyce’s support in the Nationals party room is in free fall as his colleagues work out how they can replace the Deputy Prime Minister.
It is understood Mr Joyce could be finished as Nationals leader as soon as today after a week of revelations about his affair with his former media adviser Vikki Campion.
Nationals MPs said they had been inundated with correspondence from angry voters since the scandal broke and they were now working on a plan to replace him.
But those pushing for change want to avoid a bloody coup and will instead try to persuade him to “do the right thing”and resign.
Ominously for Mr Joyce, Nationals MPs said he quickly losing his Queensland support base.
Discussions were under way last night about forming a delegation to confront the embattled leader after some Nationals tried unsuccessfully to speak to him one-on-one about his position earlier this week.
As public pressure mounted, Mr Joyce’s predecessor Warren Truss made a significant intervention, telling the ABC he had “undoubtedly been diminished” by the affair and the issue needed to be resolved quickly.
While the Deputy Prime Minister’s position was de- teriorating, he still had some support in the party room, with one MP describing those wanting him gone as “utterly selfish opportunists”.
To avoid the bitterness of a coup, Nationals wanting a change are pushing for an orderly transition to a new leader, with Veterans’ Affairs Minister Michael McCormack the overwhelming favourite.
Mr Joyce apologised to his Coalition colleagues yesterday morning, telling them “every political career has a time of trial” and he was determined to work through it.
One MP said: “(Mr Joyce) has never been someone who gives in easily. He’s wanted this job all his life and he won’t go lightly.”
A Liberal MP close to Malcolm Turnbull said the Prime Minister was deeply unimpressed with Mr Joyce’s behaviour.
“What people forget about Malcolm is he is a little bit pious — he doesn’t like this sort of thing,” the MP said.
It is understood a handful of MPs visited Mr McCormack in his ministerial office yesterday.
He has strong support across the party in three states and was the preferred candidate of several MPs — called the “anybody but Barnaby group” — when Mr Joyce first became leader.
Sources close to Mr McCormack said it would not be in his character to challenge and he would likely only accept the job if Mr Joyce resigned.