Peter Dutton and the other losers will be lucky to avoid seeing his career turn to ashes

What a collapse for a party that promised conservative values. What an indictment on cabinet ministers who unleashed chaos.

The biggest loser in any leadership spill is always the former leader, but this bedlam has more casualties than Malcolm Turnbull.

Peter Dutton might have lost more out of the leadership spill than former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Peter Dutton reached for the leadership trophy and found himself clutching a funeral urn instead. He will be lucky to avoid seeing his career turn to ashes.

Dutton exaggerated his support and fooled too many of his colleagues and some in the media. His tactics brought government to a halt. Rather than clearing the air, his ambition choked the Parliament.

The stench will linger within the Liberal Party for some time.

Three cabinet ministers claimed in public that Turnbull had lost majority support among his colleagues and that they had to bring the leadership dispute to a head.

They were wrong. The vote on Friday showed the government could have kept its head, in more ways than one, if those three ministers had kept theirs.

Mitch Fifield, Mathias Cormann and Michaelia Cash said Malcolm Turnbull had lost majority support.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Mathias Cormann, Michaelia Cash and Mitch Fifield resigned their portfolios to bring on the spill. Fifield switched camp to Morrison. They may be restored to the ministry but Australian voters would be right to raise a question. Do they deserve saving?

Those who did the numbers for Dutton, such as Victorian conservative Michael Sukkar and ACT Senator Zed Seselja, heavied their way through the party room to force colleagues to sign up.

“Their reputations have been shredded this week,” says one MP.

Some Liberals were offered inducements like ministries while others were threatened with punishment if they held out, with the clear threat that preselections could be at risk.

The whole operation was “politically dodgy” according to one Liberal and totally clumsy according to another.

“It didn’t go on for a week because there was a plan, it’s just that it was badly organised,” says one MP.

Illustration: Matt Golding

No policy visions were put forward to justify this crisis. More than anything, this was an exercise in vindictive payback. Among the losers are those who were bent on vengeance against Turnbull, not least of them Tony Abbott.

The former prime minister and his closest colleagues, Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz, claim to stand for conservative values but deliver chronic instability instead.

The outcome on Friday proved, as if anyone needed it, that the Liberals can only prosper if the arch-conservatives give up the delusion that they are the future of the party.

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