The party sometimes forgets that Liberal leaders have been most electorally successful when they’ve governed from the centre

Malcolm Turnbull’s accession to the prime ministership presents us with a paradox. His leadership is a return to Liberal Party orthodoxy, yet the forces most opposed to him are within his own ranks. On early indications – in opinion polls and surveys of consumer confidence – he has already won over much of Australia; the fact that he faces internal opposition says more about the contemporary Liberal Party than about the prime minister.

In its seventy years of existence, the key lesson of the Liberal Party’s experience of government is that it succeeds most when it governs from the centre. Robert Menzies knew this only too well – and he was rewarded with sixteen unbroken years in office. While he was never challenged within the party, for much of his tenure – especially the early years – a dissident “cave” of unreformed free traders from New South Wales opposed key areas of his government’s program…

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