Peta Credlin: Malcolm Turnbull needs to use Tony Abbott
ANY way you look it at, it was always going to end up here. As a senior Labor insider said to me at the start of last week: "I can't believe your mob thought it would be any different a second time around."
I can't believe they did either: we had ringside seats after all, and profited from Labor's dysfunction. Still, 53 bedwetters argued they too could remove a first term prime minister and the Liberal base would look the other way. It didn't, and a good dozen or so of the 53 are no longer in parliament as a result.
But that's little comfort as the Coalition faces a continued slide in the polls and turmoil in its ranks.
Some Liberal supporters say they will stay and fight. They're angry about superannuation, and a tax-and-spend budget, but they believe the shift to the left will be corrected because it can't go on like this.
Others disagree and have resigned as a result, or quietly let their membership lapse; the thin crowd at last weekend's national conference was demonstrable evidence of rank and file anger at Canberra's ongoing games.
But it was last Friday night's triumphalism that's made an already bad situation so much worse.
Christopher Pyne is a senior Cabinet minister. He's got a seat on the National Security Committee, where he's supposed to be both loyal, and good at keeping secrets, yet his brash admission at the factional drinks proved he's no good at either.
Defence types always considered him an awkward fit in a portfolio where loyalty and honour have no peer.
Now their concerns have been legitimised with Pyne's public confirmation of what insiders have known for months; Tony Abbott was brought down by an orchestrated campaign that was planned before he was even sworn in as PM.
Despite being a trusted member of Abbott's inner-sanctum (more fool Abbott), as Pyne boasted to the bar room of acolytes, he had always voted for Malcolm in every ballot that mattered.
That the room cheered this disloyalty is one of the many reasons people have grown to despise modern politics.
Having voted in support of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage at the election 12 months ago today, the Australian people are fed up with the bickering.
It was only recently that Labor supported a plebiscite but now they say Australians aren't capable of a mature debate (aren't we having it anyway?) and that $150 million is a waste of money (it's a mere three days worth of interest on our debt so please, don't insult our intelligence).
And Christopher Pyne backed the plebiscite too. Not just at the last election but also when Tony Abbott first raised it with him at a private dinner in Adelaide in August 2015; I know because, besides the two men, I was the only other person present.
When later raised in the party room, Pyne claimed he was ambushed by the idea but like so much else over the past few years, truth's the first casualty in battles such as this.
The challenge for Malcolm Turnbull is to now heal the divisions he's created. The first duty of a leader is to maintain party unity and he must be seen to deal with Pyne's comments firmly.
Chiding the media for reporting on the Liberal's internecine war by branding it 'fake news' belies the fact that Liberal supporters are furious at the disloyalty and betrayal from MPs who should know better.
By rejecting advice to treat his predecessor with dignity, and thinking his sky-high polls would last forever, Mr Turnbull's arrogance has hurt him.
It is too late to try and buy Abbott off with a cabinet post but the prime minister would be wise to use his predecessor's firepower, not fight against it.
Where the PM has upset the base with Labor-lite policies and hits on super and schools funding, Tony Abbott still speaks their language.
At the very least, unlike Pyne, Abbott is loyal and everything he says is on the record; for him, the opponent has always Labor.
Peta Credlin is Tony Abbott's former chief of staff, now a commentator with News Corp Australia